Sunday, April 02, 2006

Histoire(s) du Cinema (Chapters 1a, b and 2a, b)

Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Length: 270 minutes (for all eight parts)
Country: France
Format: DV
Date Viewed: 17 March, 2006

Jean-Luc Godard's experimental four-and-a-half hour Histoire(s) du Cinema is an eight part series made by the New Wave director for French television. Hated by the studio execs and rarely shown due to headache-inducing copyright issues, the film recently got a rare, full-length screening at the Northwest Film Forum.

As it turns out, though, I could only make it through 150 minutes (minus some for a little snooze), or four of eight parts, before I could handle no more (and the high number of walk-outs during the screening shows that I was not the only one). I must here admit a strong aversion to experimental cinema. I applaud that people are trying something new and working to expand the possibilities of the medium, but the experimental films I've seen all tend to be overwhelmingly pretentious and artistic for the sake of being artistic, which is incredibly off-putting. Histoire(s) du Cinema was no exception. Repeating pictures, film clips, banal narration and strange sound effects over and over and over again (for some 270 minutes) to create a form of formlessness does precious little to excite me.

Supposedly heavy on film theory, Godard parses out approximately one idea per chapter (but admittedly there may have been more in the unsubtitled text)- though sometimes he uses the same idea for multiple pieces - and is usually completely baseless and seemingly designed only to make Godard sound like a poetic intellect (see: Godard's theory on why films were largely black and white upon their invention). The only interesting idea I found during the 150 minutes I made it through was when Godard interspersed clips of hardcore pornography and clips of violence, especially from the Holocaust, in the background throughout the series - an unfortunately not explicitly discussed pairing commenting on the sexualized violence casually inserted into an uncomfortably large number of modern films.

Most critics heap a huge amount of praise for Histoire(s) du Cinema, raving about the style of the piece and the interesting ideas. I found the style and ideas to be little more than components of an egotistical exercise in creating "capital-A" Art.


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