ECM Cinema, a new DVD series, is launched with a release dedicated to the work of filmmakers Jean-Luc Godard and Anne-Marie Miéville. It brings together four short films made between 1993 and 2002. Four short films, as writer Michael Athen notes, “that encompass everything: art and freedom, presence and memory, violence and passion. Four symphonies composed of images, tones, quotes, and soundtracks. Four essays in which the cinema itself seems to speak to us, in friendly dialogue with painting, literature and music – as a brother to all the arts.”
The release of this DVD coincides with a major retrospective of Godard’s work at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, and also marks fifteen years of close collaboration between JLG and ECM Records. The label has previously released complete soundtracks of Godard’s “Nouvelle Vague” and “Histoire(s) du Cinéma”, inviting the listener to consider the filmmaker as a ‘composer’, a master of sound-collage. This uncommon perspective is one that record reviewers have enthusiastically endorsed. When the films are experienced in their entirety, it is plain enough that JLG is a master of montage at all levels and in the broadest sense: “The lines may be by Bergson or Blanchot, Borges or Thomas Mann, the images by Monet or de Staël, Malevich or Rothko, the music by Beethoven or Ravel, Keith Jarrett or Hans Otte – what counts is the way in which Godard appropriates them...” (from an essay in the accompanying book).
As Godard has said, “Manfred Eicher began our relationship by sending me some music... And after listening I wrote to him and asked him to send me more records of his company. And I had the feeling, the way he was producing sound, that we were more or less in the same country: he with sounds, me with images. In fact some of the records brought me to a picture called ‘Nouvelle Vague’ and later other ones ... and I began to imagine things due to that kind of music.”
After “Nouvelle Vague” there was “Allemagne Neuf Zéro”, “Hélas pour moi”, “JLG/JLG – Autoportrait de décembre”, “For Ever Mozart”, “Eloge de l’amour”, “Notre Musique”, the epic video series “Histoire(s) du Cinéma”, plus short films including “The Old Place”, “De l’origine de XXIe siècle” and “Je vous salue, Sarajevo” – all with music from ECM. In the “Four Short Films” collection alone there are excerpts from ECM recordings of Arvo Pärt, György Kurtág, Hans Otte, Federico Mompou, Tomasz Stanko, Dino Saluzzi, Keith Jarrett, Ketil Bjørnstad, David Darling and more. What has this music brought to his work? JLG: “Much, very much.”
Yet the music is but one element in Godard’s unique mix. As Manfred Eicher observed recently, “What makes things so different and special is the way Godard is able to juxtapose sound, light, text and music. His sense of rhythm, inhaling and exhaling, is remarkable, as is his sense of timing. His artistic work is often a point of reference for me, for instance, the sculptural quality of his films and the depth of aesthetic and artistic information they convey.”
The information spills and bleeds through these four films, independent pictures that are also interconnected, with themes and sub-themes carried from one work to the next...
The DVD is issued with a 120-page hardbound book, incorporating the complete text of Jean-Luc Godard’s and Anne-Marie Miéville’s narration (in French and English translation), an essay by Michael Althen (in German, French and English), and more than 70 stills from the film, in black and white and colour.