Video Series Burnishes Image Of France's Jean-Luc Godard

Jean-Luc Godard's public image continues to grow among American audiences. Recent months have brought his Bosnian war drama, "For Ever Mozart," and the national reissue of "Contempt," his 1963 masterpiece starring Brigitte Bardot and Jack Palance.

Now his video series, "Histoire(s) du cinma," appears to be almost ready for its long-awaited American premire. In a Museum of Modern Art screening in New York recently, two of the latest chapters attracted a large and enthusiastic crowd, suggesting that Godard may soon reclaim the position he held in the 1960s as one of the world's most widely known and hugely influential filmmakers.

The word "histoire" means both history and story, and at heart "Histoire(s) du cinma" is both: a history of filmmaking, and a deeply personal story of what movies have meant to Godard throughout his cinema-struck life.

The range and variety of the series have been clear from installments shown on previous occasions, and the episodes screened at the museum illustrated these qualities again.

"The Currency of the Absolute" expresses Godard's rage at the failure of most filmmakers to launch withering attacks on fascist powers during the World War II era.

By contrast, "Control of the Universe" celebrates the brilliance of Hollywood master Alfred Hitchcock, who reimagined the world in the shape of his own artistic and philosophical insights.

The showings at the Museum of Modern Art were intended as a prelude to the first United States presentation of the complete series next fall (also at MOMA), after which the eight chapters will presumably become available to home-video watchers.

Godard is always full of surprises, though, and it now appears he's working on more installments than previously planned - meaning that completion of the series may not arrive as soon as expected, but its size and scope may be even more sweeping than fans anticipated. Godard lovers everywhere are staying eagerly tuned for further developments in the "Histoire(s) du cinma" saga.

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