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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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Conclusion 237


Conclusion In my introduction I suggest that the processes integral to cinematic creation and to the experience thereof – which, quite simply, involve the technique of placing images side by side and the resulting impression of movement in time and space – is demonstrative of my approach to A la recherche and Histoire(s) du cinéma. Cinema functions as a formal intermediary for Proust’s novel and Godard’s video, which necessitates a movement between forms that compares to cinema’s movement between images – in both cases the notion of the ‘between’ (of images, spaces, times, forms) is fundamental to the production of meaning. What is discovered is that montage – which best designates this process of placing images into meaningful sequences – is more conceptually f luid than its strictly cinematic definition suggests. That is to say, it can be used to describe the superimposition of images as well as the metonymic sequencing of images that extends horizontally through space and time. The complex inscription of sound onto the film image further problematizes the simplicity of this definition as montage becomes entwined with cinema’s sonic aspect. The initial understanding of the notion of cinematic movement expands, then, as this study progresses, and so too does the approach adopted, which nonetheless continues to ref lect the formal imperatives of cinema, and particularly those of mon- tage. For not only do these analyses use cinematic theory and philosophy as intermediaries, but they superimpose such approaches onto those drawn from literature and new media theories, thus demonstrating the...

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