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Modernist Visions

Marcel Proust’s «A la recherche du temps perdu» and Jean-Luc Godard’s «Histoire(s) du cinéma»


Miriam Heywood

This book explores the work of two major twentieth-century artists by placing them in critical proximity. Marcel Proust’s A la recherche du temps perdu and Jean-Luc Godard’s Histoire(s) du cinéma connect in ways that the author accounts for through the agency of cinema and its theorisation. Cinema, the art form that characterises the twentieth century, provides the tools with which to recognise Proust’s and Godard’s shared poetic enterprise and the modernist underpinning that leads, in both cases, to the simultaneous rejection of and yearning for artistic transcendence. Rather than bringing Proust and Godard together by highlighting their similarity to cinema, the author instead considers the ways that these two major works respond to questions raised by film theory and philosophy. In this way, the communication across the formal and historical gulf that divides Proust and Godard makes itself heard.
This study offers a new approach to film-philosophy scholarship by embracing the cinematic as an inspiring channel through which to rethink not only our relationship with film but also with literature and, potentially, with art at large.


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Chapter Four: Subjectivities 169


Chapter Four Subjectivities Je n’ai pas le sentiment de faire une dif férence entre la vie et la création. Pour moi, diriger une actrice et parler avec sa femme, c’est pareil […] Si un regard me fait penser à la pureté, j’enchaîne sur une autre image de la pureté […] si le ciel est bleu je le filme bleu; s’il devient gris, je le filme gris. — Jean-Luc Godard1 Neither A la recherche nor Histoire(s) du cinéma can be categorized simply as autobiographies, yet the problem of self-expression is one that preoccu- pies both the novelist and the video-maker. The purpose of this concluding chapter is not to examine the traces of the Proustian or Godardian selves that may or may not be authentic manifestations of the artists themselves, but to explore the complex mise-en-scène of often conf licting, perpetually transforming subject positions. Rather than to highlight a progressive movement towards the dispersal of the subject – from the fragmented self of Modernism to the digitized self that Vilém Flusser sees as a ‘digital distribution’ of ‘swirling point-potentialities’2 – my analysis seeks instead to ascertain how the various manifestations of self in each work reveal Proust’s and Godard’s shared artistic vision. 1 Godard, ‘Godard – Le Clézio face à face’ in Jean-Luc Godard par Jean-Luc Godard, I, 286–7. For a fuller discussion of this interview see Bellour, L’Entre-images 2, 127. 2 Vilém Flusser, ‘Digital Apparition’, in Electronic Culture: Technology and Visual Representation, ed. by Timothy Druckrey (New York:...

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