Utopian Television: Rossellini, Watkins, and Godard beyond Cinema. By Michael Cramer.

Utopian Television: Rossellini, Watkins, and Godard beyond Cinema. By Michael Cramer. 154 REVIEWS sympathy with its direction and conclusions cannot but be frustrated at the absence of any account of how the hard-won ‘exception’ may have adapted to post-crash realities. ALISON SMITH doi:10.1093/fs/knx275 UNIVERSITY OF LIVERPOOL Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2017. xxiii þ 277 pp., ill. Utopian claims for television were not unusual in post-war Europe given the medium’s re- lationship to public service at a time of national rebuilding. Michael Cramer’s book focuses on a trio of practitioners who posited the idea that television could extend and fulfil the potential of cinema to educate and cultivate a mass audience. The book discusses Roberto Rossellini’s historical films for television, constituting around half of the director’s total out- put yet largely neglected in critical studies of his work, and the strikingly confrontational fake documentaries made for the BBC by Peter Watkins. But colleagues in French studies will no doubt be most interested in the sections devoted to the television work of Jean-Luc Godard and his collaborators. Godard has a complex love–hate relationship with television, having repeatedly had work commissioned by TV companies (in France, the UK, Germany, and Italy) only to see the end results refused for broadcast, or broadcast under very different conditions than those originally intended. Cramer suggests that Godard and Anne-Marie Mie´ville’s television series of the 1970s(Six fois deux: sur et sous la communication, 1976,and France tour de´tour deux enfants, 1977) critically interrogate the concept of communication, partly as a corrective to the dogmatic rhetoric of the Groupe Dziga Vertov (1968–72), but partly also to demonstrate the absence of real communication in con- ventional media production, which ‘drown[s] information and images with false objectivity and cliche´’ (p. 153). However, Comment c¸a va (dir. by Godard and Anne-Marie Mie´ville, 1978) suggests that such experiments in communication can only be carried out ‘under controlled conditions’ because, even if realized, they would be ‘prohibited by existing institutions’ (p. 155), as Godard’s own experience unfortunately demonstrates all too well. Cramer sees Godard and Mie´ville’s television work as a utopian anticipatory project along the lines described by Fredric Jameson in Archaeologies of the Future (London: Verso, 2005): ‘it can show us where we might go or how we might imagine the future, but it does not get us there’ (p. 157). Cramer’s last chapter borrows a title from Godard and Mie´ville’s Soft and Hard (1985): ‘The triumph of private television’ (p. 180). The 1980s era of deregulation in broadcast media marks the end of television’s utopian dream and coincides with Godard’s return to cinema.Itisalsoaroundthistime thatGodardbeginsto complainoftelevision ‘reading’ rather than projecting the image and ‘speaking’ rather than showing. All the same, Godard’s late opus, Histoire(s) du cine´ma (1988–98), would not have been possible without funding from Canalþ, or without the TV screenings of classic movies that provided the raw material for much of Godard’s bravura montage. Cramer’s book is an intriguing reminder that another approach to television is possible, in an era (that of HBO, Netflix, and Amazon) when the relations between cinema and television are once again ripe for discussion. Lucidly written and judiciously researched, this book signals a research career that will certainly be, in TV parlance, worth watching. DOUGLAS MORREY doi:10.1093/fs/knx250 UNIVERSITY OF WARWICK Downloaded from https://academic.oup.com/fs/article-abstract/72/1/154/4782566 by Ed 'DeepDyve' Gillespie user on 16 March 2018 http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png French Studies Oxford University Press

Utopian Television: Rossellini, Watkins, and Godard beyond Cinema. By Michael Cramer.

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Oxford University Press
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Abstract

154 REVIEWS sympathy with its direction and conclusions cannot but be frustrated at the absence of any account of how the hard-won ‘exception’ may have adapted to post-crash realities. ALISON SMITH doi:10.1093/fs/knx275 UNIVERSITY OF LIVERPOOL Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2017. xxiii þ 277 pp., ill. Utopian claims for television were not unusual in post-war Europe given the medium’s re- lationship to public service at a time of national rebuilding. Michael Cramer’s book focuses on a trio of practitioners who posited the idea that television could extend and fulfil the potential of cinema to educate and cultivate a mass audience. The book discusses Roberto Rossellini’s historical films for television, constituting around half of the director’s total out- put yet largely neglected in critical studies of his work, and the strikingly confrontational fake documentaries made for the BBC by Peter Watkins. But colleagues in French studies will no doubt be most interested in the sections devoted to the television work of Jean-Luc Godard and his collaborators. Godard has a complex love–hate relationship with television, having repeatedly had work commissioned by TV companies (in France, the UK, Germany, and Italy) only to see the end results refused for broadcast, or broadcast under very different conditions than those originally intended. Cramer suggests that Godard and Anne-Marie Mie´ville’s television series of the 1970s(Six fois deux: sur et sous la communication, 1976,and France tour de´tour deux enfants, 1977) critically interrogate the concept of communication, partly as a corrective to the dogmatic rhetoric of the Groupe Dziga Vertov (1968–72), but partly also to demonstrate the absence of real communication in con- ventional media production, which ‘drown[s] information and images with false objectivity and cliche´’ (p. 153). However, Comment c¸a va (dir. by Godard and Anne-Marie Mie´ville, 1978) suggests that such experiments in communication can only be carried out ‘under controlled conditions’ because, even if realized, they would be ‘prohibited by existing institutions’ (p. 155), as Godard’s own experience unfortunately demonstrates all too well. Cramer sees Godard and Mie´ville’s television work as a utopian anticipatory project along the lines described by Fredric Jameson in Archaeologies of the Future (London: Verso, 2005): ‘it can show us where we might go or how we might imagine the future, but it does not get us there’ (p. 157). Cramer’s last chapter borrows a title from Godard and Mie´ville’s Soft and Hard (1985): ‘The triumph of private television’ (p. 180). The 1980s era of deregulation in broadcast media marks the end of television’s utopian dream and coincides with Godard’s return to cinema.Itisalsoaroundthistime thatGodardbeginsto complainoftelevision ‘reading’ rather than projecting the image and ‘speaking’ rather than showing. All the same, Godard’s late opus, Histoire(s) du cine´ma (1988–98), would not have been possible without funding from Canalþ, or without the TV screenings of classic movies that provided the raw material for much of Godard’s bravura montage. Cramer’s book is an intriguing reminder that another approach to television is possible, in an era (that of HBO, Netflix, and Amazon) when the relations between cinema and television are once again ripe for discussion. Lucidly written and judiciously researched, this book signals a research career that will certainly be, in TV parlance, worth watching. DOUGLAS MORREY doi:10.1093/fs/knx250 UNIVERSITY OF WARWICK Downloaded from https://academic.oup.com/fs/article-abstract/72/1/154/4782566 by Ed 'DeepDyve' Gillespie user on 16 March 2018

Journal

French StudiesOxford University Press

Published: Jan 1, 2018

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