2 X 50 Years of French Cinema (Anne-Marie Mieville and Jean-Luc Godard, 1995)
Michel Piccoli, the President of the Century of Cinema Association, meets Jean-Luc Godard at a lakeside hotel to discuss the celebration of cinema's centennial. Piccoli's organization will celebrate the centennial by broadcasting the films of the Lumière brothers on French TV for a minute a day for a year. Godard immediately criticizes all aspects of Piccoli's enterprise. Why celebrate cinema? We celebrate what has been forgotten to bring it back to light, and cinema has not disappeared. Why celebrate December 28, 1895, the date the Lumière brothers first showed their films? What is being celebrated is not the invention of the movie camera, the shooting of the first film, or the "projection of a dream on a wall", but the first time someone paid "three dollars to see a dream on a wall". Why celebrate the history of cinema at all, a history that has already been forgotten? (Yes, there is a paradox here.) Godard leaves Piccoli with this question hanging in the air. For the rest of his stay, Piccoli questions the hotel staff about French film history. It turns out Godard was right. "Do you know Marcel Dalio?" "No, but I know Schwarzenegger." "What movies do you like?" "I like Natural Born Killers, Beverly Hills Cop, and Pulp Fiction. I like movies with lots of butchery." "Anything else?" "I love 9 1/2 Weeks. Lots of naked thighs." "Do you know The Rules of the Game?" "No." Mixed in with Piccoli's depressing interrogation are stills from the forgotten French films with Godardian text superposed. Even if you don't fully agree with Godard's gloom about cinema (and I certainly don't), you will find this the most intellectually engaging movie of the year. It's a rare thing to argue with a movie in your head after you've seen it, but when it does happen, savor the moment. It won't happen often.