Fragment #9: Youssef Ishaghpour discusses History with Jean-Luc Godard

Youssef Ishaghpour: Your film [Histoire(s) du Cinéma] is like the century’s great novels, or poetic works intended to be complex and inclusive, blurring the distinction between prose and poetry, image and reflection, personal lyricism and documentary history, and systematically combining writing and re-memorisation to become the place where the truth of the century resounds. […] You are there alongside the other cinéastes and among them. You are also the museum attendant who expects his tip and berates visitors who don’t understand that the works are what it’s all about. You are the cantor, the orchestral conductor or high priest behind his lectern evoking the old films brought into the present by Langlois. You are also the one who owes his identity and his history to cinema and must repay the debt for his own salvation, and although you say “History, not its narrator“, you are there as the narrator, not just as the absent fabricator who has placed a card on display. You are also there as one who has been to heaven. One can’t help wondering whether Godard, who has found his home in cinema, occupies a place in your Histoire(s) equivalent to Hegel’s place in his system.

Jean-Luc Godard: History is stating something at a given moment, and Hegel puts it well when he says you’re trying to paint gray on gray. From what little I know of Hegel, what I like about his work is that for me he’s a novelist of philosophy, there’s a lot of romantic in him… […] To me History is, so to speak, the work of works; it contains all of them. History is the family name, there are parents and children, literature, painting, philosophy … let’s say History is the whole lot. So a work of art, if well made, is part of History, if intended as such and if this is artistically apparent. You can get a feeling through it because it is worked artistically. Science doesn’t have to do that, and other disciplines haven’t done it. It seemed to me that History could be a work of art…


Youssef Ishaghpour: Only cinema can narrate History with a capital H simply by telling its own history, the other arts can’t.

Jean-Luc Godard: Because it’s made from the same raw material as History. The fact is that even when it’s recounting a slight Italian or French comedy, cinema is much more the image of the century in all its aspects than some little novel; it’s the century’s metaphor. In relation to History, the most trivial clinch or pistol shot in cinema is more metaphorical than anything literary. Its raw material is metaphorical in itself. Its reality is already metaphorical. It’s an image on the scale of the man in the street, not the infinitely small atomic scale or the infinitely huge galactic one. What it has filmed most is men and women of average age. In a place where it is in the living present, cinema addresses them simply: it reports them, it’s the registrar of History. It could be the registrar, and if the the right scientific research were done afterwards it would be a social support; it wouldn’t neglect the social side.

Jean-Luc Godard & Youssef Ishaghpour. Cinema: The Archeology of Film and the Memory of a Century. Translated by John Howe. Oxford & New York: Berg, 2005. pp.26-8, 87-8


One thought on “Fragment #9: Youssef Ishaghpour discusses History with Jean-Luc Godard

  1. Pingback: Cinema of the Other, talking about a Cinema yet to come! my film “Time of the Other” « cinemass916

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