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This is a major event in film studies: we hear as if for the first time the live pulse of Godard’s lectures and discussions in Montreal in 1978—a series of fourteen meetings that pave the way for the eight chapters of his Histoire(s) du cinéma (1988–1998). Indispensable to anyone seriously interested in the history and philosophy of film.
— James Williams, Royal Holloway, University of London

The Godard who emerges from Introduction to a True History of Cinema and Television is a quintessential twentieth-century high modernist—the author of an ongoing, not yet completed project comparable in ambition to In Search of Lost Time or The Cantos, composed in an idiolect that, as with Joyce or Picasso or Gertrude Stein, effectively reinvented a medium.
— J. Hoberman, The Nation

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Introduction to a True History of Cinema and Television

Jean-Luc Godard
With an essay by Michael Witt
Translated with annotations by Timothy Barnard

In 1978, just before returning to the international stage for the second phase of his career, the world’s most renowned art-film director then and now, Jean-Luc Godard, improvised a series of fourteen one-hour talks at Concordia University in Montreal as part of a projected video history of cinema. These talks, published in French in 1980 and long out of print, have never before been translated into English. For this edition, the faulty and incomplete French transcription has been entirely revised and corrected, working from the sole videotape copies of the lectures, housed in the Concordia University archives.

For this project, Godard screened for a dozen or so students his own famous films of the 1960s—watching them himself for the first time since their production—alongside single reels of some of the films which most influenced his work (by Eisenstein, Dreyer, Rossellini, the American directors of the 1950s and many others). Working at the dawn of the video age, a technology which was to be essential to his completion of the project many years later, as the visual essay Histoire(s) du cinéma, Godard used pieces of 35mm film, projected in an auditorium, to approximate the historical montage he was groping towards. He then held forth, in an experience he describes as a form of ‘public self-psychoanalysis’, on his personal and professional relationships (with François Truffaut, Anna Karina, Raoul Coutard, film producers and audiences), working methods, aesthetic preferences, political beliefs and, on the cusp of 50, his philosophy of life.

The result is the most extensive and revealing account ever of his work and critical opinions. Never has Godard been as loquacious, lucid and disarmingly frank as he is here. This volume is certain to become one of the great classics of film literature, by perhaps the wittiest and most idiosyncratic genius cinema has known.

Readers familiar with the Histoire(s) du cinéma video project, famous for its enigmatic juxtapositions of fragments of texts and images, will find some of the same works discussed here, providing an invaluable key to the meaning of Godard’s later collages.

Two editions of the book will be printed: a sewn-binding, cloth-covered library edition and a sewn-binding paperback with a thick (15 pt.) card cover that will not curl. Only the best-quality printing and binding materials and techniques are being used to create a handsome and durable volume in either edition. This will be one of the most attractive and well-made books you own. The book is 558 pages, with 150,000 words from Godard’s talks, 30,000 words of commentary and 80 full-page illustrations, twenty-four of which are in Godard’s hand and the rest film stills he manipulated with a photocopier for the original edition of the book.

Download an errata sheet to the paperback edition of Introduction to a True History of Cinema and Television. Updated version September 2022.

When it was invented cinema fostered, or impressed, a different way of seeing called editing, which is to put something in relation to someone in a different way than novels or paintings. This is why it was successful, enormously successful, because it opened people’s eyes in a certain way. With painting there was a single relationship to the painting, with literature there was a single relationship to the novel, but when people saw a film there was something that was at least double—and when someone watched it became triple. There was something different which in its technical form gradually came to be called editing, meaning there was a connection. It was something that filmed not things, but the connection between things.
—Jean-Luc Godard
Paperback, sewn binding with card cover, $40.

Perhaps the single most valuable text ever produced on Godard’s ideas about cinema, his own working methods, and most importantly, his way of thinking. Godard’s speech is at once erratic and brilliant, befuddling and breathtaking in its dense, free-associative flow. . . . [It] thus functions like his cinema. If he laments his inability to write the history of cinema through cinema here, he succeeds in making another sort of cinema through his own speech: an image of the self-as-process, as fragmentary text, in which we not only recognize ourselves but also a mutual need that Godard, perhaps more than any other filmmaker, attempts to address without presuming to satisfy. Barnard’s feat in assembling this formidable volume has been to facilitate the process of communication that Godard began, to help the arrow fly farther and reach more people than ever before. A True History of Cinema and Television is not only a landmark in Godard scholarship, but also a deeply moving text in which Godard takes on a profoundly Socratic character, not just in his questioning of the most seemingly self-evident elements of our existence and his insistence that all knowledge must also be self-knowledge, but also in the palpable love that he conveys towards his partners in dialogue, namely all of us. — Michael Cramer. Read Michael Cramer’s on-line review in the film magazine Senses of Cinema

Once again, after his remarkable new translation of André Bazin’s What is Cinema?, Timothy Barnard enlists philological fervour to advance film theory: with this new complete edition published here under the title Introduction to a True History of Cinema and Television, Jean-Luc Godard’s legendary 1978 Montreal lectures become fully accessible to an English-language audience for the first time. Together with an introduction by leading Godard scholar Michael Witt, this edition is guaranteed to become an instant work of reference in Godard scholarship and propel this classic text to new prominence in the broader field of film and media theory. — Vinzenz Hediger, Goethe Universität

Some great works must be preceded by a work without which their project itself would have been difficult to conceive. Thus Jean Santeuil for Marcel Proust, for example, was the work that opened the way to In Search of Lost Time. In the same way Introduction à une véritable histoire du cinema was the first laboratory in which the idea of
Histoire(s) du cinema took shape. That is an indication of its importance and why its first scholarly publication, in a considerably enhanced English edition more than thirty years after its publication in French, is such an event. — Raymond Bellour, Emeritus Director of Research, CNRS

Timothy Barnard has given us a meticulous English translation of a fascinating experiment—a mix of classroom projections, lectures and discussions in which Jean-Luc Godard comments on his own career and its relation to twentieth-century film and television. Inspired by Henri Langlois and André Malraux, Godard advocates a method of thinking about cinema in audio-visual form, by means of unexpected juxtapositions, montage and collage. The digital revolution that would facilitate such thinking had not yet occurred, but this book was the seed from which one of its most remarkable products, Godard’s Histoire(s) du cinéma, would eventually grow. Introduction to a True History of Cinema and Television is important reading for anyone interested in Godard—in other words, anyone interested in cinema. — James Naremore, Emeritus Chancellors’ Professor, Indiana University

The volcanic talks which make up the volume Introduction à une véritable histoire du cinéma are an explosive series of propositions on the image, flowing out of the magma of European cinephilia and spurting forth in the blaze of direct dialogue with the films and the audience. The splendid English version prepared by Timothy Barnard, Introduction to a True History of Cinema and Television, should serve as the model for a new French edition. — Nicole Brenez, Université Paris 3 Sorbonne nouvelle

Introduction to a True History of Cinema and Television is the outline of Jean-Luc Godard’s magisterial great work, Histoire(s) du cinéma. It also outlines a method, never before seen in cinema: comparison. In other words, the search, between films, for “resemblances which cry out”, to borrow Georges Bataille’s expression. Finally translated, this Introduction will enable English speakers to better understand the French critical tradition bequeathed by Baudelaire and Malraux. — Dominique Païni, École du Louvre

Histoire(s) du cinéma is without a doubt one of the great landmarks in the history of the cinema, at once a swan-song to a dying art and a celebration of its protean powers of rebirth, renewal and reinvention, in and through the media that, in true Hegelian fashion, sublate and thereby preserve it. Introduction to a True History of Cinema and Television gives us privileged access to the layered and subtle, but also tentative and speculative thinking that went into this prodigious cinematic summa.
     Timothy Barnard’s meticulous translation and deft editorial work similarly succeed in sublating and thereby preserving the inspirational source in all its overflowing force. We now have a better understanding of why Godard needed such a long gestation period, and appreciate the distance – and the detours – travelled from these spontaneous but rushed, improvised but deeply pondered reflections, to the work that so monumentally concluded the last century. But we can also reverse time’s arrow and think of the Montreal lectures in their present reincarnation as the welcome and authoritative commentary on Histoire(s) du cinéma, recapitulating once more the many missed encounters between the cinema and the century.
     Speaking of missed encounters, I cannot resist mentioning my first encounter with Introduction à une véritable histoire du cinéma, in 1981, in the German edition, translated by Frieda Grafe and Enno Patalas, perhaps Germany’s greatest film critics after Lotte Eisner and Siegfried Kracauer. Their introduction to the Introduction begins ominously with the words: “you are reading a translation of a translation of a translation, not only from one language to another: even more is lost in the back-and- forth between different media.”
     Now that we have another translation of a translation, what Grafe-Patalas regretted as a loss may have turned into a gain, for does not the figure of the back-and-forth describe the veritable movement of Godard’s cinematic intelligence and does not the “back-and-forth between media” mark his triumph as an artist? — Thomas Elsaesser, emeritus professor, Amsterdam University

This is a major event in film studies: we hear as if for the first time the live pulse of Godard’s lectures and discussions in Montreal in 1978—a series of fourteen meetings that pave the way for the eight chapters of his Histoire(s) du cinéma (1988–1998). Timothy Barnard conveys brilliantly Godard’s mercurial thought in action, even at its most hesitant, contradictory and ambivalent. This wonderfully accessible and superbly edited translation restores missing material and conversations that were not transcribed in the original 1980 French edition, the illustrations of which are reproduced here with translated captions. Michael Witt’s magisterial introductory essay to the volume on the dense archaeology of Histoire(s) complements the translation perfectly in its intellectual commitment and rigour. Previously unavailable to the Anglo-Saxon reader, this now fully complete volume will prove indispensable to anyone seriously interested in the history and philosophy of film. — James Williams, Royal Holloway, University of London

Taken with cinema, but not taken in by it, the Godard who holds forth and fields questions in Introduction to a True History of Cinema and Television is also the brother from another planet, at once straightforward and cryptic, an epistemologist of cinema, wondering why the film frame became a square and why lenses are round. “There is no opposite of an idea,” he remarks in the discussion that follows a screening of Fritz Lang’s M (1931), which he has chosen to pair, as the expression of a particular historical moment, with his second feature, the political meta-thriller Le Petit Soldat (1963). “So an idea goes everywhere.” — J. Hoberman. Read J. Hoberman's review in The Nation — and check out their very affordable on-line subscription rates!

At the heart of the talks, and at the heart of Godard’s entire worldview, is the conflict between the image and the word, which formulates bluntly as “images are freedom and words are prison”. One can follow even the most seemingly unrelated points of discussion across the fourteen meetings back to this binary. One finds this conflict in everything from his distrust of the star system with its close-ups that privilege the face—for Godard the site of language—over all else, to the probing claim that silent cinema was killed by literature, which saw it as abnormal because of its distance from language. Indeed, it’s this primacy of language in the very format of the talks that renders this only an introduction. It is nonetheless essential, very surely the most important book on cinema that will be released this year. — Phil Coldiron. Read Phil Coldiron’s on-line review in the film magazine Cinema Scope.

For those interested in Godard and/or the relationship between film and history, this book is a gold mine which is hard to recommend enough. But Introduction to a True History of Cinema and Television is also a book that can bring pleasure to and communicate with—not to mention entertain—readers not interested in film history, film theory or Godard from the outset. — Endre Eidsaa Larsen, NY TID

And a few words from paying customers (send us your comments!)

. . . this brings up the design of the book and the quality of the printing. You have designed an elegant, easily read and well laid out book that can easily serve as an exemplar in why printed books can never be replaced by electronic ones. Acid free paper and sewn binding. A cover that makes you want to leave the book on a table where it can be seen (rather than put into a book shelf), and initial chapter pages that pop out. For that matter, even the paper for the cover and back feels sensuous. I have to add that the Kino-Agora books are equally well designed and presented. So I do think you were ‘true to the ideals Godard espouses around craftsmanship’ as you write in your publisher’s acknowledgments, and I believe your readers ‘will be touched by and feel a part of the book’ in the way you describe. I certainly am. — D.B., U.S.A.

I have just received my order of books in Mexico, and I can’t describe how happy and excited I am. Thank you very much for these gorgeous publications. — L.M., Mexico

The books arrived last week. They’re beautiful. Thanks again. — J.O., U.K.

The book is terrific. — D.H., Canada

Thank you for providing an invaluable service, it is deeply appreciated. — M.C., Australia

Just a short e-mail to say what wonderful service! The Godard book arrived in the UK only a week after I ordered it. Saving it to read for when I am in France next week. Thanks so much. Will send out a recommendation on my Facebook page. Will be back for more books I can assure you. — I.W., U.K.

The books are even better than I hoped. You have done a superb job with both Bazin and Godard (I have not yet looked closely at the other five books). The Bazin essays are beautifully translated, and the accurate rendering of Godard’s informality is exactly what is wanted and needed. Congratulations and gratitude from me (and from many other caring people, I’m sure). With deepest thanks, and with best wishes for future projects. — N.L., U.S.A. [This customer took a holiday in Canada just to buy What is Cinema?, which cannot be sold in the U.S.A. for copyright reasons.]

JLG + the free Kino-Agora titles arrived last week. The JLG book is beautiful. — M.N., Germany

The translation and production are splendid, and the text is very illuminating about Godard’s entire career. A very important piece of careful scholarship. — R.W., U.S.A.

Enjoying the book immensely. — G.E., New Zealand

Excellent work, very engrossing. — G.N., Canada

Beautifully printed and having the interview questions re-united with the text makes for much more coherent reading than the old French edition. — G.Y., U.S.A.

I’ve been dying to get my hands on the book since you first announced it. Thanks for publishing such an essential book! — B.G., U.S.A.

Congratulations for this wonderful project. — R.H., U.S.A.

Many thanks for doing such excellent scholarly, design and publishing work. — J.S., U.S.A.

I love it! Thank you! — C.B., U.S.A.

Just a quick note to let you know that the book arrived this week. It was waiting for me upon my return from seeing Godard’s latest film, appropriately enough. The book is beautiful. Thank you for going to the effort of getting this out there. — A.B., U.K.

Thoroughly enjoying my time with Godard. Thank you for getting this work out. It means a lot for cinephiles like us here. — N.R., India

I want to compliment you on the wonderful job you did on A True History of Cinema. I’m extremely satisfied with the quality of the book. I have loved it thus far, and I’m grateful that you gave me the opportunity to read it in my formative years. The third Kino-Agora publication on Montage also proved an essential read, and I will definitely recommend it to others. — K.E., The Netherlands

I received the book a couple of days ago. I’m a film maker, and this book and the other titles I see in your catalogue are a gold mine of knowledge. Thanks a lot for publishing it! Looking forward to future titles. — K.C., China

Vive caboose! — C.K., U.S.A.

My books arrived this morning. They appear to be wonderful! Thanks so much and please attach me to your mailing list. — D.P., Canada

I would just like to thank you for the magnificent Introduction to a True History of Cinema and Television. I've also read through Découpage and Montage, and taken many notes. These books burst with ideas, and I like their critical passion, how they both have an attitude in their theoretical reflections. You do a great job reinvigorating important film concepts, and I’m really looking forward to future caboose releases.
— E.L., Norway

Thanks so much for expediting delivery. I haven’t yet had a chance to delve into your translations, but I must say the book is even more handsomely designed than your website suggested. I expect to be ordering some of caboose’s other releases very soon.
— I.H., U.S.A.

I’ve been looking so long for this book to come out in English. I have read so many good words about the translation. And it is going to be great to finally read all three Kino-Agora books (by you, Aumont and Kessler). You have to know that all your great works are appreciated a lot. — A.K., Sweden

Excellent, thank you very much. Wouldn’t get such service from Amazon! — T.D., U.K.

I was familiar with the book in its French edition, and I must tell you that I greatly admire the work you have done. This edition has made a considerable contribution to what was available beforehand, and your notes are very useful and interesting. — S.B., France

I’m loving the Godard book so much. First of all thank you for your hard work, it is worth every penny and second spent on it. — D.A., Israel

This is a major contribution, not only to scholarship around Godard, but for thinking around cinema generally. I started reading it on the train to campus today and was so absorbed in it that I missed my stop! — S.C., U.S.A.

Bless you for this book. If I would wait for this book in Polish I would be retired rather than a young person. Once again, you are doing a great job. — M.S., Poland

Congratulations on the beautiful physical production of the book, it's much bigger and cooler than I was expecting! — J.C., U.S.A.

Thanks for the fast shipping. I started into the book and it’s fascinating. I really appreciate caboose publishing this! — T.H., U.S.A.