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HISTOIRE[S] DU CINEMA (director/writer: Jean-Luc Godard; cinematographers: Pierre Binggeli/Harve Duhamel; editor: Jean-Luc Godard; cast: Jean-Luc Godard (Narrator); Runtime: 266; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Gaumont Canal; Olive Films; 1988-1998-France-in French with English subtitles)

The application is intense, and the film never stands still long enough to get dry.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The title means either “Stories of Cinema” or “History of Cinema,” depending on whether you add at the end the “s” or not. The rambling non-linear ambitious personal documentary is filled with French director Jean-Luc Godard’s (“Weekend”/”Breathless”/”Contempt”)great passion forfilm criticism and social criticism. It features a series of eight cinematic essays made between 1988 and 1998. They covera multitude of films that Godard thought shaped the history of cinema, and include films such as A Night at the Opera, Greed and North by Northwest.

It opens with a serious looking Godard furiously working the keys of an electric typewriter and playing the part of narrator, as the film inter-cuts with quotes, snippets from countless films, art pictures, puns and commentary. The application is intense, and the film never stands still long enough to get dry. Its ultimate claim is that the mythology of films covered by Godard are of the past, as cinema has changed so much for various reasons that no one today can lay claim they know what cinema has become–as the cinema Godard knew is over because it no longer exists as he knew it.What Godard does is offer conjectures and curmudgeon-like suggestions without mounting any specific argument about any theory on film.It seems like it should be am unwatchable mess, but I found it to be a fantastic watch. It surprisingly held my attention for the long haul of 266 minutes.

It’s a film to be enjoyed by film lovers and not in parsing out critique or attempting to tell where each chapter is going.The included films are surely great ones, but there are so many great films to choose from that it’s inevitable Godard left out numerous films that viewers would have liked to be included in such a dubious listing. For those who crave film lists, this is essential viewing.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”