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Late Godard and the Possibilities of Cinema

Daniel Morgan
Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Pages: 326
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  • Book Info
    Late Godard and the Possibilities of Cinema
    Book Description:

    WithLate Godard and the Possibilities of Cinema, Daniel Morgan makes a significant contribution to scholarship on Jean-Luc Godard, especially his films and videos since the late 1980s, some of the most notoriously difficult works in contemporary cinema. Through detailed analyses of extended sequences, technical innovations, and formal experiments, Morgan provides an original interpretation of a series of several internally related films-Soigne ta droite(Keep Your Right Up, 1987),Nouvelle vague(New Wave, 1990), andAllemagne 90 neuf zéro(Germany 90 Nine Zero, 1991)-and the monumental late video work,Histoire(s) du cinéma(1988-1998). Taking up a range of topics, including the role of nature and natural beauty, the relation between history and cinema, and the interactions between film and video, the book provides a distinctive account of the cinematic and intellectual ambitions of Godard's late work. At the same time,Late Godard and the Possibilities of Cinemaprovides a new direction for the fields of film and philosophy by drawing on the idealist and romantic tradition of philosophical aesthetics, which rarely finds an articulation within film studies. In using the tradition of aesthetics to illuminate Godard's late films and videos, Morgan shows that these works transform the basic terms and categories of aesthetics in and for the cinema.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95396-3
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    (pp. xv-xvi)
    (pp. 1-28)

    This is a book about Jean-Luc Godard’s late work, in particular the films and videos he has made since the late 1980s. It is also a book about the place of aesthetics in cinema, and about the persistence of modernism, political radicalism, and late nineteenth-century artistic and philosophical concerns into the end of the twentieth century. Last, it is a book about how all these things go together, about the way Godard’s films and videos make use of this inheritance and in so doing transform it in and for the cinema.

    As any viewer of Godard’s work over the past...

  7. PART 1.

    • 1 The Work of Aesthetics
      (pp. 31-68)

      If my argument is for the importance of aesthetics within Godard’s films and videos since the late 1980s, two kinds of questions quickly arise. First, if I am taking a tradition of philosophical aesthetics to be not only an interpretive framework but also explicitly present within these works, what evidence is there in the films and videos? Where does this concern manifest itself? Second, if aesthetics is as prominent as I am claiming, why have critics by and large failed to bring it up, much less discuss it as a central orientation?

      Though the primary purpose of this chapter is...

    • 2 Nature and Its Discontents
      (pp. 69-119)

      Godard’s reputation in the 1960s was built in part on the claim of being one of the great filmmakers of urban locales, especially Paris. The genre-infused films in the early part of the decade—fromÀ bout de souffleandBande à part to Made in U.S.A.(1966), evenUne femme est une femme—are all oriented around and have their narratives defined by, the contours of the city in which they take place.Deux ou trois choses que je sais d’ellegoes a step further by placing the city explicitly within the film’s title:ellerefers not just to...

    • 3 Politics by Other Means
      (pp. 120-152)

      In the previous chapter, I argued thatSoigne ta droiteandNouvelle vagueexplicitly move away from the treatment of nature in Godard’s films of the early 1980s. Against an aesthetic based on the sublime, Godard gives a normative argument inSoigne ta droitefor a move to the register of the beautiful, the mundane, and the ordinary. WithNouvelle vague, Godard uses the trope of the garden to show the natural world as inextricably caught up in the human and the historical; at the same time, he situates the category of the miraculous within the natural world as a...

  8. PART 2.

    • 4 Cinema without Photography
      (pp. 155-202)

      At the very beginning of the book, I described a scene fromAllemagne 90 neuf zérothat takes place in the Alte Nationalgalerie in Berlin. It starts with a shot of a woman in the act of taking a photograph; a 180-degree cut over her shoulder shows that she is photographing Gustave Courbet’s paintingThe Wave(see figure 1). As she presses the shutter, Lemmy Caution says in voice-over, “Bonjour, Monsieur Courbet,” and Godard cuts to a black-and-white film clip of a large wave rising up from the bottom of the frame and tossing a small ship. When I discussed...

    • 5 What Projection Does
      (pp. 203-252)

      Spurred by the 1995 centennial of cinema’s invention, an occasion to evaluate the medium’s past, present, and future, the rhetoric of a “death of cinema” became prominent at the close of the twentieth century. The discourse ranged from the popular to the scholarly: Susan Sontag’s “The Decay of Cinema,” Paolo Cherchi Usai’sThe Death of Cinema, Laura Mulvey’sDeath 24x a Second.¹ The reasons given for cinema’s death were varied: shifts in viewing habits, economic and industrial transformations, and, most frequently, the slow eclipse of celluloid in favor of new digital technologies. Godard was by no means immune. Indeed, the...

    • 6 Cinema after the End of Cinema (Again)
      (pp. 253-264)

      The closing moments ofHistoire(s) du cinémahave the feel of an elegy, of being at the end of something: the single rose, the solitary figure of Bacon’sStudy for a Portrait of Van Gogh, and the past tense of the final words (“I was that man”). In case we weren’t sure to whom the sequence was referring, Godard includes a black-and-white photograph of his own face, weaving it in and out of the other images before slowly resolving on it. This final sequence suggests an end both to cinema itself and to Godard’s career—and, more than anything else,...

  9. NOTES
    (pp. 265-296)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 297-309)