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Reviewed by:
  • Jean-Luc Godard dans la relève des Archives du Mal by Saad Chakali
  • James S. Williams
Jean-Luc Godard dans la relève des Archives du Mal. Par Saad Chakali. Paris: L'Harmattan, 2017. 264 pp.

This study explores in fascinating close detail the workings and theoretical significance of Jean-Luc Godard's archival practice in Histoire(s) du cinéma (1988–98) and subsequent films. Its central argument is that Godard is engaged dialectically in montage and that the image is conceived always in terms of a third image that exists mentally in the future perfect tense. At the heart of Godard's interminable archive fever, Chakali claims, is a confrontation with radical evil that should be viewed as both an attempted redemption of the past and an unconditional concern for future justice. This dense argument, premised on a Benjaminian conception of the dialectical image and Derridean notions of the archive, is intended primarily for Godard specialists already tuned in to the philosophical debates around Histoire(s) du cinéma. Few concessions are made to the lay reader, starting with the book's rather clunky, fragmented structure. Following an extended prologue examining the implications of citationality and the future anterior raised by Godard's use of a messianic formula falsely attributed to St Paul, 'L'image viendra au temps de la résurrection', three main chapters consider in turn the possibility of a cartography of the Godardian archive (with Godard as 'archon' rather than mere archivist); his aesthetic retrieval of images, which insists on the physical aspects of suffering and death; and the paradoxical rememoration of the future and promise of mourning to come, which always leave room for hope and possibility ('Mort, le cinéma cependant ressuscitera', p. 120). Each of these chapters (the first two of which include copious appendices) are punctuated spatially by boxes of text devoted to flashpoint sequences in particular films by not only Godard but also film-makers such as Roberto Rossellini and Pier Paolo Pasolini, resulting in rich and fertile juxtapositions. A four-page Epilogue restating Chakali's seven key theses is then followed by a series of discrete Annexes (almost half the book) devoted to Notre musique, Film socialisme, and Adieu au langage. Though always solidly grounded and precise, this highly intensive and sophisticated reading of Godard suffers from a rather laboured and abstract style of exegesis devoid of visual illustration. Ultimately there is little fundamentally new or original here: many of the French critics liberally cited, such as Youssef Ishaghpour and Jacques Aumont, have already said something similar, and there is no engagement at all with anglophone critics. A more personal note is struck, however, in the final section where Chakali takes Georges Didi-Huberman to task for his critique of Godard in Passés cités par JLG (Paris: Minuit, 2015), and where he addresses a major bone of contention in Godard studies: Godard's supposed anti-Semitism. Chakali rightly [End Page 481] exposes how Didi-Huberman casually confuses the terms 'juif' and 'israélite' and fails to grasp Godard's dialectical method, which undermines identitarian labels and categories. It makes one wonder what kind of more direct and accessible book Chakali might have written if he had begun in this polemical vein.

James S. Williams
Royal Holloway, University of London
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Additional Information

ISSN
1468-2931
Print ISSN
0016-1128
Pages
pp. 481-482
Launched on MUSE
2018-08-15
Open Access
No
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