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Histoire(s) du cinéma: Toutes les histoires (1988)

Video  |   |  Documentary  |  7 May 1989 (France)
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Title: Histoire(s) du cinéma: Toutes les histoires (Video 1988)

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7 May 1989 (France)  »

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Included in Sight and Sound's poll in 2012 as one of the top 50 films of all time in See more »


Edited from The Night of the Hunter (1955) See more »

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A shockingly disrespectful ode to something Godard loves and is a part of
18 June 2014 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Jean-Luc Godard's Histoire(s) du Cinéma immediately intrigues just based on the title alone, which suggest that Godard will approach the enormous idea and medium of film by looking at multiple different countries and the differences between their films versus films from other countries and perhaps work off of that to illustrate the idea that film has many written and unwritten histories. It's an unbelievably ambitious concept, and after viewing the eight-part series' "a" part of the series' first chapter - titled All the (Hi)stories - I'm not sure Godard was ready to tackle the idea, at least in a clear, coherent way.

Godard's nonlinear filmmaking style is ever-present in Histoire(s) du Cinéma, but in a way so alienating I wasn't anticipating at all. Godard narrates most of the first chapter, constantly chomping and puffing on a cigar, while furiously typing on a rickety typewriter his rambling, disjointed thoughts, ideas, quotations, and perceptions of cinema, some taken from his own personal thoughts, others quoted from philosophers, filmmakers, poets, and others. Plastered on the screen haphazardly along with English subtitles are stray text, colorful dialog, randomly-placed letters inside words, and jumbled phrases, already crowding frames that would be plenty crowded if they simply stuck to showing the images from films.

The biggest frustration, however, is the lack of seriousness present with this project thus far, all by Godard, who seems to just be using such an ambitious idea of laying out the histories of cinema by showing off his skills with primitive video-effects software. Most of the film clips he uses are never said which films they come, actors are scarcely mentioned by name, and directors' impacts and legacies seem shortchanged because of how jumbled the structure of this series is. The overall design of everything is messy and maddening, and it's sad to say that I exited the first part of the first chapter, which runs about fifty minutes, confused, frustrated, and worst of all, not any smarter or any brighter on the history of cinema than I previously had been.

All the (Hi)stories seems to concern numerous different genres and different types of films that are all combined together to show the diversity amongst cinema as a whole. The most significant moment in this first part, for me, was the quote "The world for a nickel," which flashes on screen about three times in a fragmented state before the aforementioned phrase finally appears. The quote essentially illustrates a time in American history when a person could spend just a nickel at the local cinema or Nickelodeon and be greeted with wondrous, limitless pictures that further showed and emphasized on worlds you probably didn't have the means to explore. It is this reason, precisely, that I find cinema to be the closest thing to magic and wonder that I have personally experienced in life.

It's just sad to note that Godard doesn't seem to be treating this project with any of the respect it deserves, from overloading the screen with needless text, cutting and pasting images with no apparent rhyme or reason, and incoherently narrating over the images, never circumventing to a discernible point. One could simply say, "but that's Godard," to which I will simply reply, "but that's disrespectful."

Directed by: Jean-Luc Godard.

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