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Very Different Sorts of Miracles Daniel Morgan’s Late Godard and the Possibilities of Cinema

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Very Different Sorts of Miracles: Daniel Morgan’s Late Godard and the Possibilities of Cinema
Very Different Sorts of Miracles: Daniel Morgan’s Late Godard and the Possibilities of Cinema

In his now canonical 2001 book The Language of New Media, Lev Manovich makes a connection between cinema and painting—how the kino-eye becomes the kino-brush—to explicate how digital imaging becomes an arduous process, to be carried out one frame at a time. Daniel Morgan makes a comparable claim in Late Godard and the Possibilities of Cinema, evaluating Jean-Luc Godard’s late oeuvre as a break from a Bazinian conception of cinema (photographic realism) and, in conjunction with his embrace of video, a move toward aesthetics—a cinema oriented around the creation of images over narrative, per se. Working extensively with four Godard films (though he mentions far more) and drawing from a plethora of theoretical and philosophical lines of argumentation, Morgan’s dense analysis seeks to function as the definitive work on Godard’s purportedly “post-political” foray into formalism, demonstrating that, contrary to prior critical work, Godard remains stridently political, investigating cinema as living history and consistently questioning what cinema is, was, and will become.

Also like Manovich, Morgan divides his book into six chapters, each with subheadings to organize the significant amount of topics pursued (“Reference Without Ontology” and “A Moving Image of Eternity” are my personal favorites). In lesser hands, the topic could easily become unwieldy. Morgan, however, wields just fine, navigating provocative claims (the critical turn against Godard’s 1980s work was due to a feeling of betraying the “political modernism” he had ascribed to just a decade prior) with clarity and, best of all, a rigorous logic that his lucid prose is able to explicate on both micro and macro levels.