Film Scouts Reviews

"Histoire(s) du Cinéma"

by David Sterritt

Far and away the best attractions on display here so far have been the two installments from Jean-Godard's ongoing video series, "Histoire(s) du cinema," crisply tranferred to 35mm and splendidly included in the Certain Regard program. Like other episodes in this extraordinary work, they're dense collages of printed words and movie excerpts stitched together by music, spoken commentary, and what may be the most virtuosic montage of Godard's remarkable career. Some of my critical colleagues have stayed away on the ground that they don't understand French well enough to grasp all the subtleties--the 26-minute works aren't subtitled, and subtitles for such densely verbal-visual material would probably be inadequate anyway--but my advice is to rush off and see the pieces, approaching them (if necessary) as if they were musical works without words, or with words included more for their sound than for their sense. This doesn't do justice to Godard's poetic use of language, of course, but my point is that the "Histoire(s)..." carry vast rewards of other sorts as well. The first of the two episodes on view here deals basically with Italian neorealism, the second with Hitchcock's career. Both are as beautiful as they are brilliant, and should be missed by nobody with even a semiserious interest in the arts of film and video.

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