FILM WEBSITE The Worldwide celluloid Massacre
This is a collection of brief film reviews/director profiles by Zev Toledano. I came across it when looking up Godard one more time.
Comparing the compactness of his interpretation of Godard with,say, the comprehensiveness/prolixity of the wiki: Jean-Luc Godard, ought to bring a smile to one’s face, if that face had seen some Godard films and read about him elsewhere.
After his succinct assessment of Godard he lists those Godard films he considers worth a try ( ‘of some interest’) and those he thinks are tosh (‘worthless’). À bout de souffle gets a mention (‘ …hand-held cameras, wild jump-cut editing, youthful undisciplined energy, whimsical narrative, exploratory cinema with people in the street as subjects, and other unconventional techniques’ ) but is in neither the ‘watch’ or ‘don’t bother’ category.
Today, reading Jim Emerson’s latest post led to Roger Ebert’s piece, The ecstasy of the filmmaker Herzog, on Werner Herzog attending a cinema interruptus viewing of Aguirre Wrath of God. A commenter, Mathew Walther, made a remark about the grammar of a sentence in the post. Ebert replied about having read Mathew’s blog. I checked it out and found the latest post, The Elephant in the street, part i, using the work of Kieslowski in examining Paul Schrader’s Transcendental Style in Film (which looks like a book one should avoid, going by this 4 page review). A quote attributed to Kieslowski:
I suspect there are a few hundred books in the world which have managed to achieve a full description of what lies within us. . . Literature can achieve this, cinema can’t. . . It’s not intelligent enough. . . it’s not equivocal enough.
took me straight back to Godard. Had he got the wrong medium? Perhaps he should have written novels. I needed an explanation of Godard between the simple clarity of Toledano, which was true but didn’t say enough, and the wiki entry, which it was possible to read all the way through and still not quite understand the essence of Godard.
I found an element of this essence on my bookshelf: Mark Cousin’s The Story of Film.
Writing about how jumps cuts hadn’t suddenly arrived with À Bout de souffle, describing the way they had been used in Dovzhenko’s Arsenal (1930), he mentions that Godard uses exactly the same number of jump cuts (nine) as in the Russian film, although he had written before about his dislike of jump cuts in certain Spanish films.
Cousins then goes on ( p. 271):
The shock attached to seeing jump cuts in À Bout de souffle arose because they were not there for any special psychological purpose, as they had been in Arsenal, nor were they wedded to quite traditional stories, as in the Spanish films. The reason for cutting the sequence in this way was because the cuts were beautiful in themselves, because they emphasised that what we were watching was cinema, just as painters had turned to cubism many years earlier because it emphasised the flatness of the canvas. Godard had been part of the magazine Cahiers du Cinema’s “think tank”. So immersed in cinema were Godard, Truffaut and others that they saw it not as something that captures real life, a mere medium, but as part of life, like money or unemployment. So, when they became filmmakers, movies were not just vehicles to carry stories and information or to portray feeling; they were also what those stories carried, part of the sensory experience of, say, sitting in a cafe watching the world go by.
In the next paragraph he goes on: “The subjects of their films were themselves, their erotic imagination, their fragility and alienation.”
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