Like a hacker steal­ing through the In­ter­net’s back door, Godard ri­fled the pock­ets of other people’s cre­ations to feed his own.

VOGUE Hommes International (English) - - JEAN– LUC GODARD - Stephan Cras­nean­scki, What We Leave Be­hind (pub­lished by Fan­tom ) VOGUE HOMMES

The film–maker, sar­cas­tic as ever, would reg­u­larly de­nounce his own sin­gu­lar­ity and orig­i­nal­ity with his in­sis­tence that ev­ery other sen­tence in his screen­plays had been writ­ten by some­one else; an­other au­thor, nov­el­ist, es­say­ist or film char­ac­ter. His en­cy­clopaedic project His­toire( s ) du cinéma — a vast Go­dar­d­ian mon­tage in al­most five hours and eight chap­ters ( “Toutes les his­toires”, “Une his­toire seule”, “Seul le cinéma”, “Fa­tale beauté”, etc. ) — was the crown­ing glory of this pil­lag­ing that is also the hall­mark of a vi­sion, a the­ory and a po­etic art of high–oc­tane col­li­sions. Pas­sages from films, lit­er­a­ture, news­reels and sci­en­tific texts be­come the sub­strate for a gi­ant trans­plant op­er­a­tion that stitches to­gether snatches of im­ages and phrases. Five hun­dred film extracts, one hun­dred and thirty paint­ings, around a hun­dred ex­cerpts from the clas­si­cal and con­tem­po­rary mu­sic reper­toire: as early as 1988, Godard was one step ahead of the on­line cock­tail shaker and, like a hacker steal­ing through the In­ter­net’s back door, ri­fled the pock­ets of other people’s cre­ations to feed his own. In­deed, whether or not His­toire( s ) du cinéma could even be screened sparked a le­gal im­broglio with Godard as­sert­ing a quo­ta­tion right for him­self and oth­ers who, in the fu­ture, might wish to fol­low in his wake. “Au­thors have no rights, only du­ties,” was an oft–re­peated phrase of his dur­ing the 2000s, win­ning the ad­mi­ra­tion of a gen­er­a­tion of dig­i­tal na­tives, ac­cus­tomed to graz­ing in­for­ma­tion free of charge. “Like my un­cle Théodore Monod, who col­lected stones in the desert, I’m in­ter­ested in frag­ments of phrases, sen­tences, the­o­rems … Der­rida took blocks, he de­con­structed; I do the op­po­site, I put pieces to­gether. I put Artemis’ foot on so–and–so and it doesn’t go. Then I put it on Ray­mond Chan­dler and I think, maybe there’s a law there,” was an­other of his com­ments. He al­ways in­sisted on these com­bi­na­torics; the abrupt and ap­po­site rap­proche­ment that short–cir­cuits ex­pec­ta­tions to re­veal a naked truth. We see it in the pho­tos of his ar­chives, in the ac­cu­mu­la­tion of notes, im­ages over­lapped onto old master paint­ings, phrases left hang­ing, words scrib­bled out and end­less books: an­cient Latin trans­la­tions mixed in with The Tun­nel ( Wil­liam H. Gass’s mas­ter­piece of Amer­i­can ex­per­i­men­tal fic­tion ), a bi­og­ra­phy of Buster Keaton with A His­tory of Math­e­mat­ics. —›

“All my life, I’ve buried the past. From one day to the next, I cut all ties with my fam­ily and stopped send­ing news.”

But why such a jumble, why put such a dis­tance be­tween him­self and his be­long­ings, trans­mi­grated to the depths of the coun­try­side with only cows and an empty church for com­pany? “All my life, I’ve buried the past. I started with my fam­ily. From one day to the next I cut all ties, stopped send­ing news, started a new life.” It’s a way of wip­ing the slate clean, an up­turned ta­ble that serves an­other pur­pose, too: never to al­low com­fort or the ac­cu­mu­lated slow­ness of a bi­og­ra­phy or an over­pow­er­ing oeu­vre to quiet the beast. Cut ties, clear the ground, pave the way. At the risk of end­ing up alone or mis­un­der­stood, a re­cur­rent com­plaint of his. In later life, Godard has be­come a kind of her­mit, shut off in his own world. Godard lost it on a reg­u­lar ba­sis. Early on, he fell out with François Truf­faut, his friend from Les Cahiers du Cinéma and the Nou­velle Vague, who in 1973 sent him an ex­plo­sive let­ter that por­trays him as a ter­ror­ist diva: “You’ve been act­ing like a shit. [ … ] You’re the Ur­sula An­dress of mil­i­tancy, you make a brief ap­pear­ance, just enough time for the cam­eras to flash, you make two or three duly startling re­marks and then you dis­ap­pear again, trail­ing clouds of self– serv­ing mys­tery.” There would be other fallings–out. “The fact is that be­ing in the pres­ence of Godard is like be­ing in the pres­ence of Pi­casso. He’s come through his era, has taken it all upon him­self, he’s shot through with its con­tra­dic­tions and out­bursts, he’s tried ev­ery­thing, he’s ab­sorbed ev­ery­thing, he’s been sev­eral film–mak­ers, he’s had sev­eral lives, some si­mul­ta­ne­ously. He’s been in­side cin­ema, he’s been out­side, he’s been above and below, end­lessly pre­oc­cu­pied with twist­ing it in all direc­tions, draw­ing out a truth, an ab­so­lute, and this in a con­stant wrench­ing whose some­times un­in­tel­li­gi­ble echoes have never ceased to reach us,” writes the film– maker Olivier As­sayas. Godard him­self pre­tended to switch the light off, an­nounc­ing the last film, the last im­pres­sion, the last ges­ture, the last hope … Only to re­turn, as he has again this year with a mag­nif­i­cent Livre d’im­age ( The Im­age Book ), sched­uled for re­lease in 2019.

“In the en­trails of the dead planet, an an­tique mech­a­nism shud­dered. Tubes giv­ing off a pale, flick­er­ing light awoke. Slowly, as though un­will­ingly, a switch changed po­si­tion.” Imag­ine these words, the in­tro­duc­tion to the screen­play for Film So­cial­isme, spo­ken over scenes filmed deep un­der­ground, in a cave af­ter some fu­ture atomic war or alien in­va­sion, open­ing with a shot of boxes and tapes piled high, ca­bles, mouldy sheets of pa­per, car­tons la­belled À bout de souf­fle, Le Mépris, Une femme est une femme, Sauve qui peut ( la vie ), Soigne ta droite … whose prove­nance and sig­nif­i­cance, for the gen­er­a­tion that sur­vived, would be­come as fas­ci­nat­ing and un­fath­omable as were, for hun­dreds of years, Egyp­tian writ­ing in the pharaohs’ tombs.

An archive box con­tain­ing the sem­i­nal “cahiers jaunes”, the early is­sues of Cahiers du cinéma.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from France

© PressReader. All rights reserved.