Jean-Luc Godard and the other history of cinema
Jean-Luc Godard's Histoire(s) du cinema (1988-1998) is a video work made up of visual and verbal quotations of hundreds of images and sounds from film history. But rather than simply telling (hi)stories of cinema, Godard makes a case for cinema as a tool for performing the work of history. This is partly because the film image, by virtue of always recording more of the real than was anticipated or intended, necessarily has history itself inscribed within its very fabric. It is also because montage, as the art of combining discrete elements in new ways in order to produce original forms, can be seen as a machine for realising historical thought. This thesis examines these ideas by discussing Godard's account of the role of cinema in the Second World War, and by analysing some of his recent work as examples of historical montage which attempt to criticise our current political climate through comparison with earlier eras. After a first chapter which sets out Godard's argument through an extensive commentary of Histoire(s) 1A and B, a second chapter discusses Godard's depiction of the invention of cinema and traces a complex argument about technology and historical responsibility around the key metaphorical figure of the train. Chapter 3 explores the ways in which Godard's historical approach to cinema allows him to maintain a critical discourse with regard to the geopolitical realities of late twentieth-century Europe (Germany, the Balkans), but also to the communications and business empires that have developed over the past few decades. A final chapter offers a detailed consideration of the nature of Godard's cinematic quotation and seeks to explicate the apocalyptic rhetoric of his late work. Aside from Histoire(s) du cinema, films discussed include Nouvelle Vague (1990), Allemagne neuf zero (1991), For Ever Mozart (1996) and Eloge de l'amour (2001).