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New Left Review 89, September-October 2014


Emilie Bickerton

A BONFIRE OF ART

It is unusual to be thrilled by a list, especially one as apparently standard as the oeuvre of an artist at the end of a book about him. But the pages Michael Witt has devoted to ‘Works by Godard’ at the end of his Jean-Luc Godard, Cinema Historian paint an unfamiliar portrait, completely changing our conception of a man usually thought of as the director of Breathless, Alphaville, Pierrot le fou and Weekend. [1] Michael Witt, Jean-Luc Godard, Cinema Historian, Indiana University Press: Bloomington 2013, $35, paperback 274 pp, 978 0 2530 0728 5 Witt’s list includes these, but also all the rest: scripts, videos, press catalogues, trailers, books, invented interviews and texts reflecting on his own practice. To see Godard foremost as a multimedia artist sheds an entirely new light on his work. The importance of his feature films is not diminished; they now appear as early stages in a much longer, ongoing journey motivated by a central concern: what are the possibilities for genuine communication? Over the years he has looked for the answers in different mediums, using a range of tools, from scissors and glue to photocopiers, found footage, photographs, tape recorders, digital cameras and now 3d. Witt tackles his subject, in what is his first sole-authored book, in such an unfussy manner and without the elliptical quality tainting much Godard commentary—artsy, complicated prose trying to compensate for a kernel of confusion—that the experience of reading Cinema Historian is like a door swinging open.

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