Spring 2014 release. Sign up to our mailing list to be notified of publication date. Available exclusively on-line from caboose. Ships with a free title in our Kino-Agora series. See details below.

Read a free chapter and an excerpt from Michael Witt’s background essay in the volume. See details below.

Advance praise for Jean-Luc Godard’s True History of Cinema:
This is a major event in film studies: we hear as if for the first time the live pulse of Godard’s lectures and discussions in Montreal in 1978—a series of fourteen meetings that pave the way for the eight chapters of his Histoire(s) du cinema (1988–1998). Timothy Barnard conveys brilliantly Godard’s mercurial thought in action, even at its most hesitant, contradictory and ambivalent. This wonderfully accessible and superbly edited translation restores missing material and conversations that were not transcribed in the original 1980 French edition, the illustrations of which are reproduced here with translated captions. Michael Witt’s magisterial introductory essay to the volume on the dense archaeology of Histoire(s) complements the translation perfectly in its intellectual commitment and rigour. Previously unavailable to the Anglo-Saxon reader, this now fully complete volume will prove indispensable to anyone seriously interested in the history and philosophy of film. — James Williams, Royal Holloway, University of London

Read more comments on Jean-Luc Godard’s Introduction to a True History of Cinema and Television.

Introduction to a True History of Cinema and Television

Jean-Luc Godard

In 1978, just before returning to the international stage for the second phase of his career, the world’s most renowned art-film director then and now, Jean-Luc Godard, improvised a series of fourteen one-hour talks at Concordia University in Montreal as part of a projected video history of cinema. These talks, published in French in 1980 and long out of print, have never before been translated into English. For this edition, the faulty and incomplete French transcription has been entirely revised and corrected, working from the sole videotape copies of the lectures, housed in the Concordia University archives.

For this project, Godard screened for a dozen or so students his own famous films of the 1960s—watching them himself for the first time since their production—alongside single reels of some of the films which most influenced his work (by Eisenstein, Dreyer, Rossellini, the American directors of the 1950s and many others). Working at the dawn of the video age, a technology which was to be essential to his completion of the project many years later, as the visual essay Histoire(s) du cinéma, Godard used pieces of 35mm film, projected in an auditorium, to approximate the historical montage he was groping towards. He then held forth, in an experience he describes as a form of ‘public self-psychoanalysis’, on his personal and professional relationships (with François Truffaut, Anna Karina, Raoul Coutard, film producers and audiences), working methods, aesthetic preferences, political beliefs and, on the cusp of 50, his philosophy of life.

The result is the most extensive and revealing account ever of his work and critical opinions. Never has Godard been as loquacious, lucid and disarmingly frank as he is here. This volume is certain to become one of the great classics of film literature, by perhaps the wittiest and most idiosyncratic genius cinema has known.

Readers familiar with the Histoire(s) du cinéma video project, famous for its enigmatic juxtapositions of fragments of texts and images, will find some of the same works discussed here, providing an invaluable key to the meaning of Godard’s later collages.

Two editions of the book will be printed: a sewn-binding, cloth-covered library edition and a sewn-binding paperback with a thick (15 pt.) card cover that will not curl. Only the best-quality printing and binding materials and techniques are being used to create a handsome and durable volume in either edition. This will be one of the most attractive and well-made books you own. The book is 558 pages, with 150,000 words from Godard’s talks, 30,000 words of commentary and 80 full-page illustrations, twenty-four of which are in Godard’s hand and the rest film stills he manipulated with a photocopier for the original edition of the book.

As a bonus, with every on-line purchase of the book a volume in caboose’s new series Kino Agora will be given away free of charge. A new title in the series will be introduced every few months throughout 2014 and shipped with the Godard. Kino-Agora titles are also available as e-books from Amazon.


When it was invented cinema fostered, or impressed, a different way of seeing called editing, which is to put something in relation to someone in a different way than novels or paintings. This is why it was successful, enormously successful, because it opened people’s eyes in a certain way. With painting there was a single relationship to the painting, with literature there was a single relationship to the novel, but when people saw a film there was something that was at least double—and when someone watched it became triple. There was something different which in its technical form gradually came to be called editing, meaning there was a connection. It was something that filmed not things, but the connection between things.
—Jean-Luc Godard
Spring 2014, 558 pp., illus., 6" x 9". Sewn binding with card cover, ISBN 978-0-9811914-1-6, $50. Sewn-binding cloth-covered library edition, autumn 2014, ISBN 978-0-9811914-2-3, $90.

Once again, after his remarkable new translation of André Bazin’s What is Cinema?, Timothy Barnard enlists philological fervour to advance film theory: with this new complete edition published here under the title Introduction to a True History of Cinema and Television, Jean-Luc Godard’s legendary 1978 Montreal lectures become fully accessible to an English-language audience for the first time. Together with an introduction by leading Godard scholar Michael Witt, this edition is guaranteed to become an instant work of reference in Godard scholarship and propel this classic text to new prominence in the broader field of film and media theory. — Vinzenz Hediger, Goethe Universität

Some great works must be preceded by a work without which their project itself would have been difficult to conceive. Thus Jean Santeuil for Marcel Proust, for example, was the work that opened the way to In Search of Lost Time. In the same way Introduction à une véritable histoire du cinema was the first laboratory in which the idea of Histoire(s) du cinema took shape. That is an indication of its importance and why its first scholarly publication, in a considerably enhanced English edition more than thirty years after its publication in French, is such an event. — Raymond Bellour, Emeritus Director of Research, CNRS

Timothy Barnard has given us a meticulous English translation of a fascinating experiment—a mix of classroom projections, lectures and discussions in which Jean-Luc Godard comments on his own career and its relation to twentieth-century film and television. Inspired by Henri Langlois and André Malraux, Godard advocates a method of thinking about cinema in audio-visual form, by means of unexpected juxtapositions, montage and collage. The digital revolution that would facilitate such thinking had not yet occurred, but this book was the seed from which one of its most remarkable products, Godard’s Histoire(s) du cinéma, would eventually grow. Introduction to a True History of Cinema and Television is important reading for anyone interested in Godard—in other words, anyone interested in cinema. — James Naremore, Emeritus Chancellors’ Professor, Indiana University

The volcanic talks which make up the volume Introduction à une véritable histoire du cinéma are an explosive series of propositions on the image, flowing out of the magma of European cinephilia and spurting forth in the blaze of direct dialogue with the films and the audience. The splendid English version prepared by Timothy Barnard, Introduction to a True History of Cinema and Television, should serve as the model for a new French edition. — Nicole Brenez, Université Paris 3 Sorbonne nouvelle

Introduction to a True History of Cinema and Television is the outline of Jean-Luc Godard’s magisterial great work, Histoire(s) du cinéma. It also outlines a method, never before seen in cinema: comparison. In other words, the search, between films, for “resemblances which cry out”, to borrow Georges Bataille’s expression. Finally translated, this Introduction will enable English speakers to better understand the French critical tradition bequeathed by Baudelaire and Malraux. — Dominique Païni, École du Louvre

Histoire(s) du cinéma is without a doubt one of the great landmarks in the history of the cinema, at once a swan-song to a dying art and a celebration of its protean powers of rebirth, renewal and reinvention, in and through the media that, in true Hegelian fashion, sublate and thereby preserve it. Introduction to a True History of Cinema and Television gives us privileged access to the layered and subtle, but also tentative and speculative thinking that went into this prodigious cinematic summa.
     Timothy Barnard’s meticulous translation and deft editorial work similarly succeed in sublating and thereby preserving the inspirational source in all its overflowing force. We now have a better understanding of why Godard needed such a long gestation period, and appreciate the distance – and the detours – travelled from these spontaneous but rushed, improvised but deeply pondered reflections, to the work that so monumentally concluded the last century. But we can also reverse time’s arrow and think of the Montreal lectures in their present reincarnation as the welcome and authoritative commentary on Histoire(s) du cinéma, recapitulating once more the many missed encounters between the cinema and the century.
     Speaking of missed encounters, I cannot resist mentioning my first encounter with Introduction à une véritable histoire du cinéma, in 1981, in the German edition, translated by Frieda Grafe and Enno Patalas, perhaps Germany’s greatest film critics after Lotte Eisner and Siegfried Kracauer. Their introduction to the Introduction begins ominously with the words: “you are reading a translation of a translation of a translation, not only from one language to another: even more is lost in the back-and- forth between different media.”
     Now that we have another translation of a translation, what Grafe-Patalas regretted as a loss may have turned into a gain, for does not the figure of the back-and-forth describe the veritable movement of Godard’s cinematic intelligence and does not the “back-and-forth between media” mark his triumph as an artist? — Thomas Elsaesser, emeritus professor, Amsterdam University

At the heart of the talks, and at the heart of Godard’s entire worldview, is the conflict between the image and the word, which formulates bluntly as “images are freedom and words are prison”. One can follow even the most seemingly unrelated points of discussion across the fourteen meetings back to this binary. One finds this conflict in everything from his distrust of the star system with its close-ups that privilege the face—for Godard the site of language—over all else, to the probing claim that silent cinema was killed by literature, which saw it as abnormal because of its distance from language. Indeed, it’s this primacy of language in the very format of the talks that renders this only an introduction. It is nonetheless essential, very surely the most important book on cinema that will be released this year. — Phil Coldiron. Read Phil Coldiron’s on-line review in the film magazine Cinema Scope.