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GODARD: Portrait of the Artist at Seventy

Colin MacCabe, Author, Sally Shafto, Other
Colin MacCabe, Author, Sally Shafto, Other . Farrar, Straus & Giroux $27 (432p) ISBN 978-0-374-16378-5
Hardcover - 432 pages - 978-0-7475-6318-1
Paperback - 454 pages - 978-0-571-21105-0
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Not quite a biography, nor a guide for newcomers, this reckoning of Franco-Swiss director Jean-Luc Godard's still-evolving film and video oeuvre—encompassing Contempt , Alphaville , Week End , Tout Va Bien , King Lear , Histoire(s) du Cinéma and more—is an annotated, episodic chronology, an approach reflecting Godard's own suspicion of narrative conventions. The former British Film Institute head of research, MacCabe has collaborated with Godard and has firsthand experience of Godard's methods, politics and aesthetics, as well as of the man himself. He begins with a somewhat awestruck accounting of several generations of Godard's patrician family, centered in French-speaking Switzerland (to which Godard returned in the early '70s and where he remains) and of the young Godard's eventual rebellion and break with them. MacCabe's account of the Nouvelle Vague 's theoretical formation via the journal Cahiers du Cinéma , which brought eventual directors Godard, Truffaut, Rivette, Rohmer and Chabrol under the ideological sway of critic André Bazin, is superb and worth the price of admission alone. MacCabe is terrific in giving concise shape to the political history of the 1960s, from which Godard's work then is inseparable. But finally, there's too much work for MacCabe to be able to account for it all, though he clearly outlines Godard's 30 years of collaboration with writer/editor/actress Anne-Marie Miéville (buttressed by a complete filmography by Sally Shafto), which has produced extraordinary experiments with video and sound. MacCabe ends with apocalyptic warnings about cinema's destruction (along with the world's), but the vein of elegiac, uncompromising resistance that pervades Godard's work is present here, as is its beauty. Illus. Agent, Andrew Wylie. (Jan.)

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