My Gleanings

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Histoire(s) du Cinema -- Chapter One

This is a translation of the narration of Chapter One(a) "Toutes les histoires" of Jean-Luc Godard's Histoire(s) du Cinema as published in the four volume set from Gallimard.
I have checked the WorldCat and this four-volume set is available from some 65 libraries world-wide. Most of the libraries listed are in the US and with the possible exception of the NewYork Public Library, they are all University or other specialty libraries.

Note: I have chosen to let the word "actualités", which means either "news" or "newsreel", stand untranslated in order to maintain some of Godard's wordplay without sounding awkward.

An introduction to a veritable history of cinema, the only one, the true one.

Chapter One
Quite a History
Mary Meerson
Do not show
every aspect of things
Save for yourself
an ill-defined margin
History of cinema
with an “s”
that there will be
that has been
for example
the story
of the last tycoon
Irving Thalberg -
A television producer
considers at most
two hundred films a year
Irving Thalberg
was only one
who each day
considered fifty-two films
the foundation
the founding father
the only son
and it must be that this story
passes by there
a young body
fragile and handsome
such as Scott FitzGerald described him
so that this
be brought into existence
the might
of Hollywood
the might
of Babylon
A dream factory
factories such as this
wasted itself
dreaming of them
A history of cinema
the actuality of history
a history of actualités
And what is more married
to one of the most beautiful women
on earth
What has passed through cinema
and preserved its mark
can no longer enter
Or tell the story
of Howard Hughes
more courageous than Mermoz
and richer than Rockefeller
producer of “Citizen Kane”
and owner of TWA
as though Meliés
had managed Gallimard
at the same time as the SNCF
and before Hughes Aircraft began
trawling the bottom of the Pacific
for CIA submarines
He required
the starlets
at RKO
to every Saturday take
a limousine drive
at two miles an hour
in order to not risk maiming
their breasts
by having them become blowzy
and who died
as Daniel Defoe
would not have dared
making Robinson die
Tell for example
the story of the films
which were never made
rather of the others
the others
one can see on television
gives us
its promises
through cinematography
Let’s not
not even
Happiness is not pleasant
L'Ecole des Femmes
Max Ophuls
jumped the ass of
of Madeline Ozeray
at the same time as
the German Army
took the French Army
from the rear
and Louis Jouvet
the patron
made his exit
Up to here
theater is
too well-known
cinema is
too unknown
A history of cinema
the actuality of history
a history of actualités
A histories of cinema
with an "s"
with an SS
'39, '40
The betrayal of the radio
but cinema keeps its word
from Siegfried and M
to the dictator
and Lubitsch
films have been made
even censored to death
a simple rectangle
of thirty-five
saves the honor
of all that is real
and if these humble images
still strike
without anger and without hatred
as a butcher does
it's that cinema is there
with its humble
and great power
of transfiguration
what plunges into the night
is the echo
of what engulfs the silence
what engulfs the silence
prolongs into the light
what plunges into the night
Images and sounds
are like people
who become acquainted
on the journey
and can never again
be separated
to prove it
the masses
love myth
and cinema
addresses itself
to the masses
but if the myth
commences with Fantomas
it ends with Christ
that was understood by the throng
who listened
to Saint Bernard preaching
something other than what he is saying
maybe, undoubtedly
But how can we ignore
what we realize
the second this strange voice
the depths
of our hearts
This is the lesson of actualités
of Birth of a Nation
of L'Espoir
of Rome, Open City
cinema never wanted to make
an event
but first of all a vision
because the screen
is the same white cloth
as the Samaritan's shirt
what is caught by the lightweight cameras
invented by Arnold and Richter
not to be overtaken
by nightmares and dreams
is not to be presented
on the screen
but on a shroud
And if the death
of Puig and of Negus
the death
of Captain de Boïeldieu
the death
of the little rabbit
have gone unheard
it is only because life has never
given back to film
what it has stolen from it
and that the forgetting
of extermination
makes up a part
of the extermination
So here we are almost fifty years
where in the dimness
the people of darkened salles
glow in a make-believe world
to rekindle
now the latter takes vengeance
and asks for true tears
and real blood
but from Vienna to Madrid
from Siodmak to Capra
from Paris to Los Angeles and Moscow
from Renoir to Malraux and Dovchenko
the great directors of fiction
had not been able
to control the vengeance
that they had stage some twenty times
Histories of cinema
histories without words
histories of the night
It is the modest cinema
of actualités
which must wash away
beyond suspicion
the blood and the tears
as the sidewalk is swept
when it is already too late
and the army
has already fired on the crowd
what there is of cinema
in the actualities of war
does not speak
it does not judge
never in close-ups
suffering is not a star
nor the bombed-out church
nor the devastated countryside
the spirit of Flaherty and of Epstein
have taken over
and it is Daumier
and it is Rembrandt
and his terrible black and white
few pans
a high-angle maybe
but only because a mother
is crying for a murdered child
and it is because this time
and this time alone
the only art
which has been genuinely
encounters painting
that is to say, art
that is to say
what is reborn
from has burned
We forget this tiny village
and its white walls ringed by olive trees
but we remember Picasso
that is to say, Guernica
We forget Valentin Feldman
the young philosopher shot
in '43
but who does not remember
at least a prisonner
that is to say, Goya
And if George Stevens
had not used the first
the first 16mm
color film
at Aushchwitz and Ravensbruck
never undoubtedly
would the happiness of Elizabeth Taylor
found a place in the sun
martyrdom and resurrection
of the documentary
Oh what a marvel
to be able to see
what one does not see
oh sweet miracle
our blind eyes
apart from this
film is an industry
and if the first World War
had allowed
American film
to ruin French film
with the birth of television
the second
will allow it to finance
that is to say
to bankrupt
all European film
Do you have two hands
asks the blind man
But it is not by looking
that I am sure of it
why trust my eyes
if I am to doubt it
is it not my eyes
that I will check
while looking
to see if I have two hands


The Histoire(s) continue at:

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