An 8-part documentary chronically the history of cinema: "All the Histories", "A Single History", "Only Cinema", "Deadly "Beauty", "The Coin of the Absolute", "A New Wave", "The Control of the Universe", and "The Signs Among Us".

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An 8-part documentary chronically the history of cinema: "All the Histories", "A Single History", "Only Cinema", "Deadly "Beauty", "The Coin of the Absolute", "A New Wave", "The Control of the Universe", and "The Signs Among Us".

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experimental film | essay | See All (2) »

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22 July 1999 (France)  »

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Edited from King Lear (1987) See more »

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Too much ambition, too little direction
19 June 2014 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Only Cinema is the "a" part of the chapter two in Godard's already long-winded and underdeveloped look inside cinema through his eight-part series Histoire(s) du Cinéma. This time, we start off by having Godard annoyingly transcribe the title of this project, the chapter, and the subtitle for the chapter on a notepad with the fattest, squeakiest black marker ever. It's unnecessary and irritating and sets the tone for what we've seen so far.

After the cloying introduction, however, things become a bit more solid than the first couple parts. The followup scene to the opening shows Godard being interviewed and shows him talking about working in the New Wave period of French cinema, when convention was being defined and young filmmaking rebels were popping up, showing the traditionalist approach to filmmaking wasn't the only way it could be done. The interviewer brings up an interesting point to Godard, about how the French New Wave period in film came in during the fifties and the sixties, which was also about the midpoint in cinema's existence, since it began in the late 1800's.

This is an interesting thing to contemplate, being the fact that cinema was still relatively young at the time and, at least in one country, already adapted a traditionalist way of conducting itself. However, when the filmmaking rebels like Godard entered in the picture, they were almost adhering to the founders of cinema, who created their own tricks and, in turn, everything they created was subversive. Godard operated on the same wavelengths, and to this day, even still does as he churns out films and projects in his late-eighties.

What follows after an intriguing interview is another array of jumbled pictures, some moving, some still images, and tiring, purposefully vague narration on how cinema relates with other different art forms. By now, it's all starting to look the same, and I'm thinking about how little I've actually learned from this. Consider Mark Cousins' massive miniseries A Story of Film: An Odyssey, which often gets criticized and discredited because of Cousins' thick, Northern Irish accent of all things. At least Cousins made a conscious attempt to hit all, or most, of the film bases and provide us with an understandable, extractable history about one of the most original and free art forms that has ever existed. It was informative and thoughtful.

Godard's problem is this all feels too haphazardly planned and impulsively compiled together, as if Godard decided at the absolute last minute he'll make a series with one of the most ambitious topics and ideas ever and this is what it came to be. So far, it's a perfect example of too much ambition and too little direction.

Directed by: Jean-Luc Godard.


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