Tracking Godard – Sound

Tracking Godard – Sound – Brief Article

Kent Jones

Is Histoire(s) du cinema best heard and not seen?

Histoire(s) du cinema, Jean-Luc Godard’s magnum opus, is now available … almost … again. Order yours today. This isn’t the four-volume text with exhaustive stills, published two years ago by Gallimard. This is another volume, produced by ECM: five books, with fewer stills but the complete text in French, German and English, and five CDs that contain the entire audio track of Godard’s massive video meditation. Maybe someday, there’ll be a third, even more expensive volume, in which moving images at least play some role. In the meantime, Godard is reportedly planning a line of Histoire(s) du cinema keychains, slacks and lemon-scented towelettes.

It all started with a blind woman named Claire Bartoli, who wrote a lovely essay about the soundtrack of Godard’s Nouvelle vague in the French film journal Trafic. Godard and ECM’s Manfred Eicher subsequently released a two-CD set of the film’s audio track and a booklet containing the essay. Undeniably, few soundtracks stand on their own the way Godard’s do. With the help of ace recordist and engineer Francois Musy, Godard’s dissonant, elaborately layered tracks have their own force and flow. And, to be fair, the CDs do give you a sense of the Histoire(s)’ densely interwoven pattern of allusions, citations, laments and pitiless insights. If you’ve seen the series, you may feel like you’ve bought the equivalent of a book of lyrics without the music. If you’ve never seen it, and you can’t wait for the Bard of Lake Geneva to clear up his rights problems, this is a pretty good substitute.

COPYRIGHT 2000 Film Society of Lincoln Center

COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group