A work of breathtaking vapidity and exemplary foolishness, this is the PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE of the "Art Cinema," sans the unintentional humor. But HISTOIRE(S) DU CINEMA is terribly silly and, like all the directors' films not nearly as intelligent as it assumes itself to be (remember that we're speaking of a man who once took Maoism seriously - for years!). So, let's see... a series of random images - old still photos, grainy video of classic films - coupled with mumbled voice-over, grating sound effects, and so many flashing title cards that prove that Godard can spell. Those who would seek the meaning and profundity here are on a fool's errand. Anyone who hopes to learn a single thing about the history of cinema will find no hope in this four and a half hours of remorseless buffoonery.
Tragically, in this life people very often simply refuse to see what's in front of them. Anyone with any common sense and a genuine love for the medium can see that this series is shoddy, narcissistic, incoherent, and more than a little insane, within the first ten minutes of the first episode. In the span of HISTOIRE(S) DU CINEMA one may find: images of Nazi death camps edited together with photographs of Charlie Chaplin and Hitler cut with not a little bit of hardcore pornography cut with (but of course!) some stray references to the war in Vietnam, Francis Bacon and Arthur Rimbaud. One must "read meaning" into this. Take your pick.
The series shines from the get-go: in Episode One we find video of a seemingly senile Godard rooting through his library, mumbling to himself ("Le cinema" mumble mumble, "Irving Thalberg" mumble mumble), along with grimy VHS footage of a few classic movies, and the amplified noise of his ancient word processor clicking, clicking, clicking for the better part of the first half hour. That's right, an annoying clicking sound and a mumbling balding old guy for a long, long time.
All this is of course "genius," which is above coherence.
Godard has for decades made movies that shine with his contempt for his audience as well as his magnificent opinion of himself. I admit that I do not hold the "New Wave" in very high esteem, and find most of Godard's films, even the early ones, pompous, intellectually shallow, and dull. I think a genuine history of cinema would reduce JLG to little more than a footnote. Yet he really has reached a stage where he can do whatever he wants and hear the cries of bravo oh great one! in the background. I suspect his fans prevented him from ever becoming a great filmmaker. Certainly there are flashes of talent in many of his early works, and CONTEMPT - the only one of his films where a producer reined him in - is a great picture. At this stage in his life he just comes off as bitter and weird. Better off skipping this set and watching one of the numerous truly fine movies that have the misfortune of being included in Jean-Luc Godard's pornographic Hitlerian navel-gazing extravaganza HISTOIRE(S) DU CINEMA.
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