Nice to have a laptop full of movies on the plane. I’d loaded up on drowsy motion-sickness pills so instead of falling asleep in the middle of a feature (as I did with The Grand Duke’s Finances) I took a bunch of shorts. The first four are from the 2004 compilation Visions of Europe.

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Europe Does Not Exist (Christoffer Boe)
A large businessman (actor from The Celebration) tries to pronounce the word “europe” with the help of a hot woman, I’m not sure why. Boe made the art-drama Reconstruction the year before this.
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It’ll Be Fine (Laila Pakalnina)
Each scene a person or a few stand faces the camera for a not-fixed period of time, then finally nod and walk off. Some vaguely unsettling music and sci-fi soud fx. Europe! Director is an award-winning Latvian.
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Die alten bösen Lieder (Fatih Akin)
Idel Üner sings about about the death of old evil songs in an empty theater while a guy who may be FM Einheit drills something and hammers a giant spring. B/W music video with a color scene. Interesting, but over my head if it had a point.
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Cold Wa(te)r (Teresa Villaverde)
Illegal immigrants, I’m guessing – being rounded up on the shore (alive and dead) and processed by the authorities. Wordless, quiet, slow-motion. Not crazy about this one. Villaverde is Portuguese, has a film called Os Mutantes.
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Love Exists (1960, Maurice Pialat)
“Deep in my memory, a train passes by just like in the movies. Memories and films are filled up with objects we dread.” You have to read the subtitles loosely – translation seems off. Present-tense empty landscapes accompany wistful music and a wistful narrator speaking of childhood memories from these places. I think it’s really easy to use cinema to express nostalgia. I won’t hold it against Pialat – still looking forward to checking his À nos amours and Naked Childhood. Gives way to distopian dread over the suburbs: “Again and again advertising prevails over reality.”
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Charlotte et son Jules (1960, Jean-Luc Godard)
Translated as “Charlotte and her lover” for some reason. Girl (Anne Collette, returning from Charlotte et Véronique but not Charlotte and her steak) walks into Jean-Paul Belmondo’s apartment to jaunty music and he never stops talking for 12 minutes, essentially “I know why you left me, I knew you’d come back, I know why you’re back, I don’t need you, I do need you,” and when she finally gets a chance to speak it’s “I came back to pick up my toothbrush.” Godardian hilarity! Gérard Blain (of Truffaut’s Les Mistons) waits for her in the car. These last two movies were on that DVD “Their First Films,” alongside Resnais’s Le Chant du styrene and Rivette & Chabrol’s Le Coup du Berger
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The liner notes say that Cleo’s real-time progression through Paris is very accurate, and that the only cheat is that the 90-minute film wasn’t titled Cleo from 5 to 6:30. This was more documentary-like than I’d remembered. Somehow I’d turned it into a Godard film in my mind (possibly because of his appearance in the film-within, or maybe because I saw Breathless the same week), but it’s really quite naturalistic, the long travel segments in buses and cars reminding me more of Rivette than Godard.

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Katy actually liked it – the first French movie she has liked in a year and a half (Amelie doesn’t count). She was especially happy about the guy Cleo ends up with at the end – an army guy on leave about to return to Algeria. They share a sense of foreboding in the park. He listens to her (unlike Cleo’s rushed boyfriend who visits her apartment) and accompanies her to the hospital, where her diagnosis is not so serious. Katy thinks the two of them will meet again, or at least that he will write.

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I haven’t seen Cleo (Corinne Marchand) in anything else, though she’s in Demy’s Lola. I loved the scene where her composer (Michel Legrand!) and lyricist come to her apartment to try out some new songs – Cleo sings one and gets lost in a close-up.

Trapped inside the song (where the nights are so long):
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Shut up, Michel Legrand:
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Cleo’s maid Dominique Davray had small parts in Any Number Can Win and Casque d’or, and her nude model friend Dorothée Blank is still acting today, appearing in Resnais’ new Wild Grass. Her boyfriend/lover José Luis de Villalonga was in Malle’s The Lovers. Varda (along with Antonioni with L’Eclisse and Bunuel with The Exterminating Angel) lost the golden palm to a Brazilian realist movie about a sick donkey.

Cleo with maid in awesome apartment:
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Dorothée Blank’s backside:
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Cleo with Villalonga:
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Where did this movie come from, and what happened to it? How come this and Chacun du cinema, anthology films with tons of super-famous directors, aren’t well known and out on video? Paris, Je T’aime did pretty well, right? Whatever… we’ve got two 90-minute anthologies here, “The Trumpet” (the first seven listed below) and “The Cello”. Each has short films with the theme of ten minutes, or else something to do with time and the number ten. Each begins with some light jazz, abstract images of water, then the signature of the director on a black background and the title of the short.


The Trumpet

Aki Kaurismäki – Dogs Have No Hell
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More dry wit from Aki. Guy spends the night in jail, gets out and has ten minutes until the train leaves for Siberia (via Moscow). In that ten minutes, he finds a girl he knows, proposes to her, buys a wedding ring and gets them both train tickets. Not much in itself, but a good start to the anthology, setting up the whole ten minutes thing.

Víctor Erice – Lifeline
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A sleeping baby starts bleeding while its twenty-or-more family members are each doing their own thing. Time passes, tension mounts. Someone finally notices the baby and fixes him up, no problem. Great camerawork here! The kid above is listening to a watch he drew on his wrist.

Werner Herzog – Ten Thousand Years Older
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A sad ten-minute documentary. Twenty years ago in Brazil, contact was made with the last tribe of people anywhere in the world who didn’t have watches and t-shirts and chicken pox. We gave them all three of those things, the chicken pox killed most of them, and now there aren’t many left. Werner, along with a member from the original team, checks up on them. The younger generation is embarrassed by their parents, want to move to the city. The older ones, represented by the war chief (above right, with his brother on left) ponder their fates and the passage of time.

Jim Jarmusch – Int. Trailer Night
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Chloe Sevigny tries to unwind in her trailer on a film shoot for ten minutes. There are interruptions. It’s pretty, but what else is it?

Wim Wenders – Twelve Miles to Trona
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Wenders manages to make a ten-minute desert road movie. This is kinda hilarious actually… straight guy accidentally overdoses on unknown hallucinogenic drug, has to drive himself to the hospital in another town ten minutes away. He doesn’t make it, but a passerby gets him there and he’s okay. Looked a bit like one of those Masters of Horror episodes where they mess with the camera to make things look trippy, but it pulled me in pretty well. They played two loud Eels songs from the Souljacker album.

Spike Lee – We Wuz Robbed
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A compressed mini-doc about Bush II stealing the 2000 presidential election from Gore (with help from the mass media and supreme court), snappy and nicely done, using all interviews and TV news graphics.

Chen Kaige – 100 Flowers Hidden Deep
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Crazy guy brings a moving company to a dirt lot to move his furniture. Finally they pretend like they’re moving furniture to appease the guy, until one mover “drops” a “vase” and breaks it. Not great, but cute. Wish it didn’t end with an awful, sub-2046 wireframe 3D animation though.


The Cello

Three of the seven Trumpet shorts made me tear up with emotion (hint: Spike Lee yes, Wim Wenders no), but most of the Cello disc left me sad, tired or bored. Huge difference there, but I’d rather have it that way than have the crap diluting the good stuff over both discs. If only the Michael Radford short had been on the Trumpet disc, I could’ve just sold Cello.

Bernardo Bertolucci – Histoire d’eaux
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I kinda liked this, but it still gave me a sort of “uh oh” feeling about The Cello when it started. Foreigner (Indian?) is in Italy with a pile of other foreigners, confused thinks he’s in Germany. Old guy wanders away from the group asks our man for a drink of water. Our man finds a girl, fixes her motorcycle, marries her, has kids, gets a nice job, buys a car, crashes the car, wanders off from the car crash site and sees the old man still waiting for his water.

Claire Denis – Vers Nancy
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A dry, academic conversation on a train about outsiders & foreigners, with the writer and one of the actors of Denis’ 2004 feature The Intruder. I haven’t seen Intruder, but this is obviously a companion piece, prequel or commentary on it. It almost put me to sleep, and I wasn’t even tired.

Mike Figgis – About Time 2
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Figgis was the oscar-nom director of Leaving Las Vegas, but I don’t think the producers of Ten Minutes Older realized that in 2002 his career was on the verge of death after Timecode and the critically bashed Hotel (it would die for real the following year with Cold Creek Manor). This is a nonsense short, shot Timecode-style. So far, it is the least-bearable ten minutes I have watched this year… I was itching to fast-forward.

Jean-Luc Godard – Dans le noir du temps
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In collaboration with Anne-Marie Miéville, I think this was actually a trailer for Histoire(s) du Cinema. They’re definitely related. The most unfortunate similarity to Histoire(s) is that this was only partially translated – none of the onscreen French text has subtitles.

Jirí Menzel – One Moment
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A very nice tribute (using archive footage) to Czech actor Rudolf Hrusínský who acted in more than ten of Menzel’s movies and died in 1994.

Michael Radford – Addicted to the Stars
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Guy travels 80 light years in suspended animation in a space capsule, gets back to earth and doctors say he has only aged ten minutes. Goes to visit his son, who was a young boy when he went away, now a very old man. Movie has an awesome sci-fi look to it, and I liked the story and atmosphere – a very nice short, my favorite of the Cello bunch. Fresh off Lara Croft Tomb Raider, Daniel Craig starred as the astronaut.

Volker Schlöndorff – The Enlightenment
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Camera zooms around an outdoor party while unseen narrator ponders the nature of time. At end camera flies into a bug light and dies. It turns out we have been a mosquito. Har!

István Szabó – Ten Minutes After
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Szabó is the Hungarian director of Lovefilm and Sunshine – I haven’t seen anything else of his. A husband comes home extremely drunk and angry, starts storming around the house while his wife watches upset, “what’s wrong? you never drink!”, finally he tries to strangle her, she stabs him, emergency crew arrives in like fifteen seconds, cops question her, the end. Why? I thought it was gonna be all one long shot, but then I saw a cut towards the end, so there were probably a couple others.

This will be one to watch again when I know more French, or just when I’ve lived longer.


Chapter 1(a), “Toutes les histoires” (“All the (Hi)stories”)

Dedicated to Mary Meerson (Langlois’s companion who helped run the Cinematheque) and Monica Tegelaar (producer of Raoul Ruiz’s On Top of the Whale).

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IMDB says parts one and two came out in the late 80’s, and the rest followed in the late 90’s. This one seemed more like a 50-minute trailer than an episode. Montage of archive footage, still and moving, edited and faded and superimposed and blended together. The footage includes scenes from films of course (rules of the game, great dictator, day of wrath, germany year zero) but lots of stills (producers, directors, Thalberg, Hughes) and paintings. Lots of focus on World War II, and ending with that Germany Year Zero segment, the whole thing came off as vaguely depressing. Maybe that’s why it took ten years to get the rest of the episodes made?

Three images overlapped: (1) Rita Hayworth dancing, (2) a drawing of Howard Hughes in his final days, (3) the witch-burning scene in Day of Wrath.


Chapter 1(b), “Une Histoire seule” (“A Single (Hi)story”)

Dedicated to John Cassavetes and Glauber Rocha (Brazilian director of Black God, White Devil).

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Surprising number of references to Godard’s own films. Tons and tons of stuff I am not getting because I don’t know much French (I pick up half the film titles and some of the short sayings printed onscreen) or art history, and haven’t seen most of the films. Should’ve known better than to think part two would be more straightforward or make more sense. Even if I don’t know what it’s saying, I still get interesting juxtapositions of images and nice shots from great films seen and unseen, which is enough to keep me watching. Sounded like I heard some Leonard Cohen and Neil Diamond.


Chapter 2(a), “Seule le cinema” (“Only Cinema”)

Dedicated to Armand J. Cauliez (a writer, published a book on Jacques Tati) and Santiago Alvarez (Cuban filmmaker).

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Fast-forward a decade. Same ol’ thing here, but two big changes:

(1) Not just montage of pre-existing footage edited with Godard in his study anymore. An actual actor, Julie Delpy, reading poetry. Also an interview with Godard by another guy (couldn’t be Serge Daney – he died in ’92), 90% untranslated.

(2) Me getting a little tired and pondering making my own historie(s) of cinema instead


Chapter 2(b), “Fatale beauté” (“Deadly Beauty”)

Dedicated to Michele Firk (film writer turned militant radical, killed herself in Guatemala to escape arrest) and Nicole Ladmiral (actress in Bresson’s Diary of a Country Priest).

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Sabine Azema (above) recits some poetry, much of it untranslated. Godard types at his typewriter some more. I listened in the headphones and a background noise (JLG’s pet bird?) frightened me. Something about photography being invented in black and white as the colors of mourning to note the death of reality. And something about women, and murder, and Band of Outsiders and Rancho Notorious and Gone With The Wind. Good to see that Godard appreciates Tom Waits.


Chapter 3(a), “La Monnaie de l’absolu” (“The Coin of the Absolute”)

Dedicated to Gianni Amico (Italian filmmaker, assistant director on Bertolucci’s Before the Revolution and Godard’s Le Vent d’est & James Agee (film writer, champion of Chaplin’s Monseiur Verdoux, writer of Night of the Hunter and The African Queen)

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or part 3A, the war and futility episode. WWII talk leads into an appreciation of Italian Neorealism and the most clearly presented introduction to a certain aspect of cinema and history thus far in the series. Says that Italian cinema in the 40’s and 50’s changed film like Manet (the godfather of modern art) changed painting. Closes with a nice montage of Italian film (minus too much onscreen block text and crazed fade transitions) set to a Richard Cocciante song. This episode has a clear point and meaning and narrative arc and supporting arguments… I don’t understand. Maybe the others have too, and I’ve been missing it. Juliette Binoche appears with Alain Cuny (of Les Amants and La Dolce Vita), who died in 1994, four years before this episode aired. Julie Delpy looked mighty young in her segment too – maybe all this footage was shot in the 80’s and not finished editing until ten years later.


Chapter 3(b), “Une Vague Nouvelle” (“A New Wave”)

Dedicated to Frederic C. Froeschel (head of a cine-club in Paris, 1950) and Naum Kleiman (Russian film critic, director of the Moscow Film Museum).

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“Becker, Rossellini, Melville, Franju, Jacques Demy, Truffaut. You knew them.”
“Yes, they were my friends.”

A personal episode, sometimes celebratory but more usually melancholy. Godard himself is the guest speaker this time, but he’s actually into it, not just distractedly reciting behind his typewriter. These things never quite seem to begin, the opening titles still playing when the episode is half over. Some 400 Blows, some Henri Langlois, more goings-on about the death of cinema. What, is video the new art form?


Chapter 4(a), “Le Côntrole de l’univers” (“The Control of the Universe”)

Dedicated to Michel Delahaye (actor in Out 1, Alphaville, plenty more) and Jean Domarchi (1950’s, 60’s Cahiers critic, had a bit part in Breathless).

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Another really good one. Probably not coincidentally, all the voiceover on this one is translated, so I was able to understand it. Lots of voiceover – it’s getting to be more of an essay lately and less of a purely visual slideshow. Still plenty of that dull video text, white-on-black block lettering. The thing always drags a little when JLG decides to move those words around the screen for thirty seconds before returning to the film clips. When there were clips, it seems half of them were by Hitchcock, “our century’s greatest creator of forms.”


Chapter 4(b), “Les Signes parmi nous” (“The Signs Among Us”)

Dedicated to Anne-Marie Miéville (one of Godard’s collaborators since 1976) and to Godard himself.

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I hope nobody stumbles across this entry hoping to learn about the film, because I really doubt I understood most of it. More more more war images in this section (have I mentioned that the film is obsessed with WWII?) and more ponderings on love, death, art, history, man, the state, and Charlie Chaplin. And it seems to me that Godard is terribly depressed. Anyway, here’s a good bit of the voiceover from the last eight minutes:

I need a day to tell the history of a second…
I need an eternity to tell the history of a day.

We can do everything except the history of what we are doing. It is my privilege to film and live in France as an artist. Nothing like a country that every day walks further down the path of its own inexorable decline.

I am the fugitive enemy of our times. The totalitarianism of the present as applied mechanically every day more oppressive on a planetary scale. This faceless tyranny that effaces all faces for the systematic organization of the unified time of the moment. This global, abstract tyranny which I try to oppose from my fleeting point of view. Because I try, because I try in my compositions to show an ear that listens to time. And try to make it heard and to surge into the future.

The only thing that survives from one epoch is the art from it created. No activity can become an art until its proper epoch has ended. Then, this art will disappear. Thus, the art of the 19th century – cinema – made the 20th century exist, which barely existed.

Cinema feared nothing of others or of itself. It wasn’t sheltered from time. It was the shelter of time. Yes, image is happiness. But beside it dwells nothingness. The power of the image is expressed only by invoking nothingness. It is perhaps worth adding: The image, able to negate nothingness, is also the gaze of nothingness on us. The image is light. Nothingness, immensely heavy. The image gleams. Nothingness is that thickness where all is veiled. The most fleeting moments possess an illustrious past. If a man passed through paradise in his dreams and received a flower as proof of passage, and on waking, found this flower in his hand… What is there to say? I was that man.

Thought I’d watch the Cannes 1988 press conference, but after the first three minutes (“video artist” Godard passionately attacking television) it all turns French.

From a belatedly-discovered interview between JLG and J. Rosenbaum:

JR: Yes, but it also isn’t legally acknowledged that films and videos can be criticism.
JLG: It’s the only thing video can be — and should be.

With that strong distinction between film and video, it occurs to me that JLG considers Histoire(s) as being about cinema but not being a work of cinema itself. I watch Breathless on my TV and say I’ve seen one Godard movie, then I watch Histoire(s) on my TV and say I’ve seen two Godard movies. JLG should like to smack me for such a thought.

This is now the most recent Godard film I’ve seen up until Notre Musique 40 years later. Wow. Came out the same year as Masculin Feminin AND Alphaville. Same year as Simon Of The Desert. Right after Umbrellas of Cherbourg, The Soft Skin and The Naked Kiss… and before Blow-Up, Balthazar, The War Is Over, The Nun and Tokyo Drifter.

Unfortunately, I didn’t write about this right after seeing it. Now it’s almost a month later, and I remember nothing but a mash of genres, a funny musical scene, some low-key crime and body disposal, a parrot, a funny Samuel Fuller cameo, and a bunch of too-cool people on an adventure. I think in the end, Pierrot shoots the girl and blows himself up. I liked the movie better than Jimmy and Katy did.

I missed Jean-Pierre Léaud in the cinema scene. Anna Karina (of The Nun and a buncha other 60’s Godard films) and Jean-Paul Belmondo (of Breathless, A Woman is a Woman, Magnet of Doom, Le Voleur and Stavisky) star.

Janus Films’ description: “After abandoning his wife at a Parisian party, bored Ferdinand (Jean-Paul Belmondo) flees his bourgeois existence with his babysitter and ex-lover, Marianne (Anna Karina). Taking it on the lam to the south of France, the couple becomes an existential Bonnie and Clyde, battling gunrunners, gas station attendants, and American tourists as they come face to face with their own roles as characters in a pop-cultural landscape. A profound turning point in Godard’s cinema, Pierrot le fou recalls the gangster cool of Breathless and Band of Outsiders while also pointing towards the increasingly essayistic, apocalyptic visions of Two or Three Things I Know About Her and Weekend.”

“I saw Pierrot le fou by chance … I decided to make movies the same night.” – Chantal Akerman