Histoire(s) du cinéma

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Histoire(s) du cinéma
An image quoted from Ingmar Bergman's movie Prison, overlapped with the text Histoire(s) du cinéma
Directed byJean-Luc Godard
Written byJean-Luc Godard
Produced byCanal+, Centre National de la Cinématographie, France 3, Gaumont, La Sept, Télévision Suisse Romande, Vega Films
StarringJuliette Binoche, Julie Delpy, Anne-Marie Miéville, André Malraux, Ezra Pound, Paul Celan
Narrated byJean-Luc Godard
CinematographyPierre Binggeli, Hervé Duhamel
Edited byJean-Luc Godard
Music byJohann Sebastian Bach, Béla Bartók, Ludwig van Beethoven, Leonard Cohen, John Coltrane, David Darling, Bernard Herrmann, Paul Hindemith, Arthur Honegger, Giya Kancheli, György Kurtág, Franz Liszt, Gustav Mahler, Arvo Pärt, Otis Redding, Dino Saluzzi, Franz Schubert, Dmitri Shostakovich, Igor Stravinsky, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Anton Webern
Distributed byGaumont
Release date
Running time
266 minutes (total)

Histoire(s) du cinéma (French: [is.twaʁ dy si.ne.ma]) is an 8-part video project begun by Jean-Luc Godard in the late 1980s and completed in 1998.[1] The longest, at 266 minutes, and one of the most complex of Godard's films, Histoire(s) du cinéma is an examination of the history of the concept of cinema and how it relates to the 20th century; in this sense, it can also be considered a critique of the 20th century and how it perceives itself. The project is widely considered Godard's magnum opus.[2][3]

Histoire(s) du cinéma is always referred to by its French title, because of the untranslatable word play it implies: histoire means both "history" and "story," and the s in parentheses gives the possibility of a plural. Therefore, the phrase Histoire(s) du cinéma simultaneously means The History of Cinema, Histories of Cinema, The Story of Cinema and Stories of Cinema. Similar double or triple meanings, as well as puns, are a recurring motif throughout Histoire(s) and much of Godard's work.[4][5][6]

The film was screened out of competition at the 1988 Cannes Film Festival.[7] Nine years later, it was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 1997 Festival.[8]

The soundtrack was released as a 5-CD boxed set on the ECM record label.[9][10][11]

In 2012, it was voted the 48th greatest film of all time in a poll of film directors by Sight & Sound magazine.[12]


Histoire(s) du cinéma is conceived as a cinematic painting that brings together the elements of the novel and of painting.[13][14] As cinema, it constructs into one whole three interrelated directions of enquiry: what the century has done to cinema; what cinema has done to the century; what makes up the image (cinematic or otherwise) in general.[15] Above and beyond its scholarly dimension, Histoire(s) involves a positive project of the reinvention of cinema through the realization of Godard's earlier ideas on the history of cinema, and the cinematic modes of thought and history, along with establishing "metacinema" as a way to view the world, following Henri Bergson and Gilles Deleuze.[Note 1] At the same time, Godard seeks to push the limits of cinema in order to bring about his "videographic refashioning of cinema in the technical, ontological, and philosophical manners necessarily involves bringing cinema to its limits".[16]


Histoire(s) du cinéma consists of 4 chapters, each one subdivided into two parts, making for a total of 8 episodes. The first two episodes, Toutes les histoires (1988) and Une histoire seule (1989) run 52 minutes and 42 minutes, respectively; the remaining 6 episodes, premiered 1997 - 1998, run under 40 minutes each.

  • Chapter 1(a) : 51 min.
    • Toutes les histoires (1988) - All the (Hi)stories
  • Chapter 1(b) : 42 min.
    • Une Histoire seule (1989) - A Single (Hi)story
  • Chapter 2(a) : 26 min.
    • Seul le cinéma (1997) - Only Cinema
  • Chapter 2(b) : 28 min.
    • Fatale beauté (1997) - Deadly Beauty
  • Chapter 3(a) : 27 min.
    • La Monnaie de l’absolu (1998) - The Coin of the Absolute
  • Chapter 3(b) : 27 min.
    • Une Vague Nouvelle (1998) - A New Wave
  • Chapter 4(a) : 27 min.
    • Le Contrôle de l’univers (1998) - The Control of the Universe
  • Chapter 4(b) : 38 min.
    • Les Signes parmi nous (1998) - The Signs Among Us

Films referenced and quoted[edit]

Two images overlapped in Chapter 1(a): Godard at work at his typewriter, and Ida Lupino

Histoire(s) du cinéma is composed almost entirely of visual and auditory quotations from films, some famous and some obscure. The sources of referenced films and literary quotations are delineated chronologically by the film critic Céline Scemama-Heard, the author of Histoire(s) du cinéma de Jean-Luc Godard. La force faible d’un art.[17]

This is a partial list of works Godard drew upon to create the project; a complete list would number hundreds of entries.


Critical reception for Histoire(s) du cinéma has been highly positive. Marjorie Baumgarten, reviewing for the Austin Chronicle said: "Few filmmakers would be able to mount a discourse on the 20th century's art and thought process as broad and extensive as this".[21] Australian film critic Adrian Martin, in a four-star review, commented: "It is the form of this remembered, necessarily scrappy, haunted, sad history which Godard evokes in all the prodigious techniques of his Histoire(s) du cinéma."[22] Calling it an "intellectual striptease", New York Times film critic Dave Kehr wrote: "Perhaps, like Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, this is not a work to be read but a work to be read in: to be picked up and put down, sampled and considered, over a period of time. Jean-Luc Godard took 30 years to compose his Histoire(s). It might take just as long to absorb it."[23] Jonathan Rosenbaum in the Chicago Reader agreed, stating: "For better and for worse, it's comparable to James Joyce's Finnegans Wake in both its difficulty and its playfulness".[24] In the academic journal Film Quarterly, James S. Williams described the project as "Godard’s gift to us: a threnody of love" and as offering "irrefutable proof" that "the forms of art—the forms that think—can help lay the basis for new forms of being".[25] Alifeleti Brown, writing for Senses of Cinema, praised the series as being "Godard’s most devastating accomplishment as filmmaker/critic/artist/poet/historian".[5] Michael Wood compared the series to an "archaeology of mind, the apparently disordered rescue of a lifetime’s memory of film" in a piece for the London Review of Books[26]


It was released on DVD by Olive Films on December 6, 2011.[27]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ In Cinema 2: The Time-Image, Deleuze discusses a new mode of cinema, that of thinking and memory, which deliberately rejects continuity editing popular in classical Hollywood film in favour of "irrational" so as to achieve a “co-presence of an inside deeper than any internal medium [milleu], and an outside more distant than any external medium” i.e. conceive of both the internal changes in elements such as memory without reference to any single subject and the external changes in the Bergsonian Whole that the cinema constitutes [including implied objects in the cinematic image outside (in both time and space) the set of the frame] See:Deleuze, G. (2009). Cinema, Body and Brain, Thought. In Cinema 2 the time-image (p. 218). and Río, E. D. (2017). Physics of Violence, Folds of Pain. In The grace of destruction: A vital ethology of extreme cinemas (p. 151).


  1. ^ "Screening: Histoire(s) du Cinema – Part of Projections of Memory". Museum of the Moving Image. January 28, 2018.
  2. ^ Sterritt, David (1999). The Films of Jean-Luc Godard: Seeing the Invisible (Cambridge Film Classics). Cambridge University Press. pp. 10, 30, 262. ISBN 978-1107014992.
  3. ^ Morgan, Daniel (2019-12-31). "Introduction". Late Godard and the Possibilities of Cinema. University of California Press. p. 18. doi:10.1525/9780520953963-004. ISBN 978-0-520-95396-3. S2CID 240976478.
  4. ^ Christley, Jaime N. (7 December 2011). "Review: Jean-Luc Godard's Histoire(s) du Cinéma on Olive Films DVD". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 2021-01-28.
  5. ^ a b Brown, Alifeleti. "Histoire(s) du cinéma – Senses of Cinema". Retrieved 2021-01-28.
  6. ^ Duncan, Sydney (2008-12-01). "Portrait of the artist as a pun man: humor and its structures in the films of Jean‐Luc Godard". New Review of Film and Television Studies. 6 (3): 269–284. doi:10.1080/17400300802418586. ISSN 1740-0309. S2CID 191451626.
  7. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Histoire(s) du cinéma". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-07-31.
  8. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Histoire(s) du cinéma". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-09-26.
  9. ^ Presto Classical
  10. ^ Language Games|The New Yorker
  11. ^ Jean-Luc Godard Is, Quietly, a Probing Musical Mind – The New York Times
  12. ^ The top 50 Greatest Films of All Time|Sight & Sound|BFI
  13. ^ "Interview: Jean-Luc Godard". Film Comment. Retrieved 2021-01-28.
  14. ^ "4. Cinema without Photography", Late Godard and the Possibilities of Cinema, University of California Press, pp. 155–202, 2019-12-31, doi:10.1525/9780520953963-008, ISBN 978-0-520-95396-3, S2CID 243523764, retrieved 2021-01-28
  15. ^ Rancière, Jacques; Murphy, T. S. (2002). "The Saint and the Heiress: A propos of Godard's Histoire(s) du cinema". Discourse. 24 (1): 113–119. doi:10.1353/dis.2003.0015. ISSN 1536-1810. S2CID 143621560.
  16. ^ Jihoon Kim (2018). "Video, the Cinematic, and the Post-Cinematic: On Jean-Luc Godard's Histoire(s) du Cinéma". Journal of Film and Video. 70 (2): 3–20. doi:10.5406/jfilmvideo.70.2.0003. ISSN 0742-4671. S2CID 194968203.
  17. ^ Scemama-Heard, Céline, La partition des Histoire(s) du cinéma de Jean-Luc Godard Archived 2011-02-14 at the Wayback Machine, available on the site of Centre de Recherche sur l'Image (CRI), Paris
  18. ^ a b c d "The Misery and Splendors of Cinema: Godard's Moments Choisis des Histoire(s) du Cinéma - Bright Lights Film Journal". Bright Lights Film Journal. Retrieved 14 March 2016.
  19. ^ a b "Senses of Cinema: The Man with the Magnetoscope". Archived from the original on 2010-12-25. Retrieved 2011-01-06.
  20. ^ "Histoire(s) du cinéma: Une histoire seule (Video 1989)". IMDb. Retrieved 14 March 2016.
  21. ^ Baumgarten, Marjorie (January 13, 2012). "Jean-Luc Godard's Histoire(s) du Cinéma". www.austinchronicle.com. Retrieved 2021-01-28.
  22. ^ "Histoire(s) du cinema". www.filmcritic.com.au. Retrieved 2021-01-28.
  23. ^ Kehr, Dave (2011-12-02). "A Singular View of Movie History (Published 2011)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-01-28.
  24. ^ Rosenbaum, Jonathan (November 2002). "Histoire(s) du cinema". Chicago Reader. Retrieved 2021-01-28.
  25. ^ Williams, James S. (2008). "Histoire(s) Du Cinéma". Film Quarterly. 61 (3): 10–16. doi:10.1525/fq.2008.61.3.10. ISSN 0015-1386. JSTOR 10.1525/fq.2008.61.3.10.
  26. ^ Wood, Michael (2008-12-04). "After the Movies". London Review of Books. Vol. 30, no. 23. ISSN 0260-9592. Retrieved 2021-01-28.
  27. ^ DVD Review on Slate Magazine

Further reading[edit]

  • Scemama-Heard, Céline, Histoire(s) du cinéma de Jean-Luc Godard. La force faible d’un art, L’Harmattan, Paris, 2006. ISBN 2-296-00728-7 (in French)
  • Kim, Jihoon. "Video, the Cinematic, and the Post-Cinematic: On Jean-Luc Godard's Histoire(s) Du Cinéma." Journal of Film and Video, vol. 70, no. 2, 2018, pp. 3–20.

External links[edit]