Youssef Ishaghpour: The difference from a historian's work, you spell it out in your film in a JLG/JLG quotation: "It isn't said, it's written, it's composed, it's painted, it's recorded," while a historian's work is essentially spoken. A historian can't allow himself to create "images," as you with montage and collage can bring together unconnected things, because a historian ought to be able to make a rational presentation of all the intermediate relations and mediations. Every time an image appears a mass of of connections, interferences and resonances spring up around it. When you raise the Liberation of Paris, there's De Gaulle's speech, there's your image of that epoch, of Resistence people in slow motion, of Duras with the song that mentions Marguerite, and a shot of her book La Doleur, there's the commemoration of the Liberation set up for television, and you talk about Debord, but also about Claude Roy who had taken the CNC set up by Vichy...I must be forgetting a lot of things, but if I remember right it ends with a scene from Pierrot le Fou concerning some of those same maquisards, who are said to be dead but of whose names and lives we learn nothing. There's always, at every moment, a polyphonic structure, you have up to ten or a dozen levels of different elements, several images and several texts, which don't always go in the same direction. And perhaps that's why it's
difficult for historians to accept. Because for them there's a fact and then another, in a relation of cause and effect, while with you it's like a sound in which one can hear not only the harmonics but also the counterpoints, in all polyphonic simultaneity, and even the inversions, but also the circular ripples going out from these things and the links that are formed at certain moments not directly, but as points of resonance and intersection between these ripples, which may be and sometimes are contradictory, as in music.
(from "History and Re-memorization", pp 25-26)
That's Ishaghpour in conversation with, who else, Godard; more specifically about Godard's monumental work, Histoire(s) du Cinema.
It illustrates, for me, the central problem of trying to understand Godard - that most cerebral of directors - and his work on an intellectual level.
At any given moment in a Godard film, you will be required to absorb several things at several levels: the music playing, the text that preceded the shot, the voice over, the conversations and all the other elements of the frame; to even attempt to separate and assign meaning to each of these elements as they occur is impossible, primarily because film, like music, occurs in time. And because time passes even as you become aware of it, you can only experience it without attempting to understand it in any other way than in the act of watching.
Who was it who said, "Writing about music is like dancing about architecture"? S/he might just as easily have replaced 'music' with 'Godard's films'!