On the Internet, No One Can Hear You Think (or, Datelessness Equals Cluelessness)

The avoidance or frequent absence of history on the Internet is often a problem, but I’ve rarely seen it exploited so shamelessly and cripplingly as it is in a post supposedly “celebrating” Godard’s 82th birthday that quotes fifteen filmmakers on the subject of Godard, including Godard himself, arranged alphabetically from Chantal Akerman to Wim Wenders.

Let’s start with the first sentence in the first quotation, from Akerman: “You can see him excluding himself from the world in an almost autistic manner.” Is this the Godard of For Ever Mozart, the Godard of Film Socialisme, or a much earlier Godard?  It’s impossible to understand, much less evaluate what Akerman is saying, without knowing the answer to this question. Pretend that this doesn’t matter and you’re pointlessly sliming both Akerman and Godard, for no good reason.

Five quotes later, we get, “Luis Buñuel: I’ll give him two years more, he is just a fashion.” Obviously, this statement was made when Buñuel was still alive, which means he had to have said it at some point between, say, 1960 and 1983. Lots of leg room in there — about 30 features’ worth.

And one quote later, from Godard himself: “I am not an auteur, well, not now anyway.” When is “now”? Your guess is as good as mine.

Some of the quotations, admittedly, cite a particular film title (usually one dating back over 40 years), allowing us some minimal context for the statement, but sometimes these helpers, though available, are excluded. Leaving aside a couple of gratuitous and supposedly timeless insults from Werner Herzog and Roman Polanski, which try and fail to be witty and intelligent, and part of a vitriolic letter from Truffaut to Godard that ended their friendship (after years of Truffaut supporting Godard in numerous ways), we get an extended quote from Orson Welles that would be meaningful and interesting if we knew that he said it after seeing Alphaville but relatively vacuous otherwise. The conveyor of this quotation prefers to keep it vacuous — or perhaps I should say “eternal” or “universal,” which in this case means about the same thing. [12/3/12]

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