Monday 28 May 2018
‘A Version of the History of Cinema as Seen Through the Eyes of Godard Based on the Films That He Has Watched or Partially-Watched’ 2018
Historie(s) du cinema (1997)
A Jean-Luc Godard Film
One of my flaws is taking things at face value. If someone tells me something is true and seem earnest and appears honest, I tend to believe them. It’s not that if you look up the word gullible in a dictionary there’s a definition accompanied by a photograph of me, it’s just that some things seem to appear to be what they appear to be. And therein lies the issue I was confronted with when I started to watch Jean-Luc Godard’s Historie(s) du cinema (1997), because it isn’t a History of Cinema in any conventional sense and it isn’t even Jean-Luc Godard’s History of Cinema. It’s even more perverse than that. What I began to realise as the first episode unfolded was that the film would be better described – if one wanted to describe it better, or more accurately indicate what it actually represents itself to be – as “a version of the history of Cinema as seen through the eyes of Godard based on the films that he has seen or partially seen”.
To understand why I include “partially seen” in my explanation is for this reason:
Richard Brody, a New Yorker journalist/columnist, wrote a book about Godard. I haven’t read it. [I did borrow it from the library but because of this demanding project I haven’t read it yet.] But, what I did read by Richard Brody was a New Yorker article on Godard where he revealed some very telling observations about Godard as a young man:
“To placate his parents, he enrolled at the Sorbonne as a student in ethnology, but he spent all his time at the movies—sometimes watching three films a day, sometimes watching one film (Orson Welles’s “Macbeth,” for example) three times in a row, and sometimes, according to Truffaut, watching “fifteen minutes of five different films in one afternoon.”
At the same time, Godard was doing his best to keep up with his reading: Truffaut reported that his friend would go to people’s apartments and read the first and last pages of forty books. Indeed, Godard had originally wanted to be a novelist, but he felt “crushed by the spectre of the great writers.” Then he discovered “other poets,” in the cinema: “I saw a film of Jean Vigo, a film of Renoir, and then I said to myself, I think that I could do that too, me too.”
– Richard Brody, New Yorker article
Watching little bits of many films in one afternoon, presumably week after week, and reading little bits of books, presumably week after week, gives any person a diet of food/information which can only be half-(or less)digested/understood, amongst the films like “Macbeth” which he watched three times in a row.
It means that Godard’s history of Cinema, even through his own eyes and experiences, doesn’t automatically mean that he’s seen every minute of every film which makes an appearance in his mammoth Historie(s) du Cinema.
But it doesn’t matter. Godard’s mind ticks away in its own bizarre manner, functioning like someone who is ADD or ADHD and brilliantly original.
Turning to amateur psychology for a moment, I’d like to explain the last sentence by saying that this particular disorder, as it has been described to me, by a psychiatrist, can exhibit the symptoms in lack of focus and detail or extraordinary focus and detail. It was explained to me that people who live with this disorder can have symptoms which show the mind going from one thing to another to another every few minutes or every few seconds, unable to concentrate on the task before them now. It is not at all inconsistent with the symptoms for the ADD or ADHD to exhibit behaviour where a person can be focused on one things for hours on end, without any distractions. What I was told (by a licensed psychiatrist) was that there is research to support the theory that if someone enjoys doing something, they can focus on that task for 8-hours, 10-hours, 14-hours – not stopping what they’re doing for a bathroom break or for food and water. They can obsessively stick with something they enjoy doing because they’re on a high because they enjoy doing it such much. Their focus is so intense that it’s hard to break the attention they’re giving the behaviour or task. I wonder what the opposite of deficit is, because that would make some people something else. I would like to hereby trademark and copyright a new psychological disorder called ADSD – Attention Deficit/Surplus Disorder.
I watched the first episode of Historie(s) du Cinema as my film-intake for Day 332 after spending most of the night – after my wife went off to read whatever she’s reading on her kindle at the moment – writing about Some Like it Hot (1959) and Greed (1924).