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Reviewed by:
  • The Legacies of Jean-Luc Godard ed. by Douglas Morrey, Christina Storjanova, and Nicole Côté
  • Isabelle McNeill
The Legacies of Jean-Luc Godard. Edited by Douglas Morrey, Christina Storjanova, and Nicole Côté. (Film and Media Studies.) Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2014. xxv + 244 pp., ill.

This fine collection is in the tradition of landmark volumes in English engaging with Godard’s work, such as Michael Temple and James S. Williams, eds, The Cinema Alone: Essays on the Work of Jean-Luc Godard 1985–2000 (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2000) and Michael Temple, James S. Williams, and Michael Witt, eds, For Ever Godard (London: Black Dog, 2004). This more eclectic volume is a valuable contribution to the field. It demonstrates the significance of Godard’s work to a wider network of artistic and theoretical creation, not merely in terms of influence, but also in terms of [End Page 424] relation in the sense of Wittgenstein’s concept of ‘family resemblances’, as evoked by Christina Stojanova in her discussion of the connections between philosopher and filmmaker (p. 128). Just as Godard’s own work troubles the boundary of what may be considered ‘cinema’, so this volume asks us to consider Godard beyond his work, exploring ‘striking examples of conceptual and structural affinities’ (ibid.), not only with Wittgenstein’s thought but also with the music of Arvo Pärt, the Judson Dance Theater, artist Ian Wallace, or David Bordwell’s concept of ‘parametric cinema’, for instance. While offering interesting chapters for musicologists or philosophers to dip into, taken together the essays lead back to Godard, emphasizing the impossibility of contemplating his œuvre without asking profound questions about cinema itself as ‘une forme qui pense’ (Histoire(s) du cinéma: 3A La Monnaie de l’absolu, dir. by Godard, 1989–98, 26 min.). The book consists of four parts, addressing film, music, and dance; the politics of representation, memory, and history; philosophy; and formalism, narratives, and exhibitions. The overall sophistication of the essays is rewardingly high. An opportunity for anglophone readers to glimpse Céline Scemama’s rich, searching analysis of Histoire(s) du cinéma, including excerpts from her fascinating ‘score’ of the films’ multi-layered intertextual references, is a welcome prospect. Those who have not kept up with David Sterritt’s reflections on Godard since The Films of Jean-Luc Godard: Seeing the Invisible (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999) will be struck by his mystical, Deleuzian, and invigoratingly joyful reading of Je vous salue Marie (dir. by Godard, 1985). Familiar films are addressed from fresh perspectives, as when John Carnahan illuminates the relation between the flow of gesture and editing in À bout de souffle (dir. by Godard, 1959) by attempting to import ‘a vocabulary for figure movement on film from the language of dance and performance art’ (p. 37). Inevitably, much space is given to questions of history, memory, and the (multimedia) archive, and relatedly to Godard’s ongoing struggle with the ‘failure’ of cinema to become itself. This utopic ‘performance of failure’ — identified in the compelling final essay by André Habib — is highlighted as a crucial aspect of Godard’s legacy: it dramatizes the impossible tension between memorialization of the past and the invention of ‘what could have been, what could still be: utopia’ (Côté, p. xiv) that is integral to cinema. Released after the book’s publication, Godard’s 3D film Adieu au langage (2014) confirms that the director continues to provoke thought through gaps and fissures opened up by cinematic innovation.

Isabelle McNeill
Trinity Hall, Cambridge


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pp. 424-425
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