This is an abridged version of the introduction to my unpublished 1998 PhD thesis on the collaborative film, video and television work made by Godard and Miéville in the 1970s. The full thesis is available to download via the link at the end.


Just as the Sonimage work has remained largely invisible, so the history of the Sonimage period has remained obscure. Bio-filmographies of Godard tend to skip over Sonimage, and are frequently incomplete or inaccurate. I begin, therefore, with a brief historical retrieval of the Sonimage period and the premises on which the experiment was founded, before situating Anne-Marie Miéville at the heart the Sonimage practice and setting out the aims of my thesis.


The name “Sonimage” was first used by Godard in late 1972, following his return from a lecture tour of American universities with Jean-Pierre Gorin to promote Tout va bien and Letter to Jane[1]. In the course of this visit Godard purchased some of the video equipment with which to set up the first Sonimage studio in the avenue du Maine in Paris in early 1973. This Paris-based Sonimage video workshop was established by Godard with Anne-Marie Miéville. Gorin was peripherally involved in the initial stages of the new venture, but the breakdown of leftist aspirations, the commercial failure of Tout va bien, a lack of engagement with the new concerns introduced by Miéville, together with a desire to move beyond the shadow of Godard’s name, all culminated in his departure to California, where he took up a lecturing post in the Visual Arts Department of the University of California at San Diego.


Godard claims to have embarked on dozens of unfinished projects between 1972 and 1978 for which only a handful of shots were completed, although traces of his abandoned projects invariably reappear in reworked and displaced form in subsequent works[2]. The first Sonimage project, a colour video work to be entitled Moi je, was originally conceived by Godard with Anne Wiazemsky. When Godard moved with Anne-Marie Miéville to Grenoble and established the Sonimage “laboratory”, the Moi je project travelled with them. Storyboard extracts were published in Cinéma Pratique in the Summer of 1973, and preparatory work continued on the film into 1974[3]. Documentation regarding this enduring founding project was held until recently by the Service des Archives du Film at the Centre National de la Cinématographie (CNC). Moi je was envisaged formally and stylistically as a video vision-mixed assault on, and explosion of, the closure of the reverse angle shot. Medium close-up head-and-shoulders shots, and their reverse angle, are presented simultaneously in a manner very close to that subsequently enacted in the dialogue sequences between Nicolas and Vanessa in Numéro deux in 1975, and in the silent «dialogue» of Nous trois (episode 5a of Six fois deux (Sur et sous la communication)) in 1976. Similarly, as Marc Cerisuelo rightly observes, much of the thematic content of Moi je has been displaced onto Godard’s fractured address which frames Numéro deux[4].


Two other projects originated in Sonimage’s Paris period: a video to be entitled Ça va mal, whose title further contributes to the series of observations on contemporary society inherent in the ironic Tout va bien, and replying two years in advance to Comment ça va. Ça va mal envisaged video in a preparatory sketch-book role, that of tracing the parameters of the final form of a film in a way that foresees the video scripts which Godard systematically used to construct the frameworks of all his films from 1979 to 1983. The second project, for which Godard made numerous sketches, was to be titled The Decline of the Dollar, an elaboration of an earlier Godard/Gorin project previously referred to as The Rise and Fall of the American Dollar.


Once the company was established, with enough video equipment installed to ensure near-autonomy in production terms, Sonimage’s Grenoble phase was extremely productive. In quantitative terms, the group produced almost 19 hours of finished material; all except France tour détour deux enfants were completed at the Grenoble site. Godard and Miéville’s hope during the initial years of the Grenoble experiment was to produce as many as two or three short films each year at low cost. In an echo of the desire of the filmmakers and film technicians radicalised by the events of May 1968, the États Généraux du Cinéma Français (EGC), to implement practical measures to break the divorce in capitalist societies between audiences/consumers and spectacle/products (through, for instance, the projection of films outside existing distribution outlets, in locations such as factories), Sonimage sought to distribute films on video cassette among like-minded organisations and groups (schools, trade unions, radical political groups, and student associations). These hopes for an alternative distribution network proved economically unrealistic; funding, given the negligible prospects of financial return, rapidly dried up. As Godard told Colin MacCabe, «the more we lowered the prices, the less we were offered»[5]. The intended distribution of Ici et ailleurs on video following its completion in 1974 failed to materialise, and it eventually received a limited commercial release on 16mm in 1976 (after, that is, the completion and distribution of Numéro deux).


Eager as ever to talk publicly of economic considerations and constraints regarding his work, Godard informs us precisely of the company’s financial make-up in September 1975: «Sonimage is a limited company with capital of thirty million which is the successor to the old company that co-produced some of my films and owns a small cinema-video studio».[6] Principal funding for the purchase of equipment came from independent producer Jean-Pierre Rassam, and from Godard and Miéville themselves, who invested two million new francs[7]. Subsequent finance came directly from Gaumont after Rassam (who had previously executively produced the commercially disastrous Tout va bien) bought into the company, becoming one of the two major shareholders. Initial funding for the technical equipment for the Sonimage studio was raised on Numéro deux and Comment ça va, both of which were commissioned. Large portions of the production budgets were simply set aside for the purchase of technology[8]. If Gaumont effectively indirectly co-produced much of the Sonimage work, Godard was quick to point out in interviews that their generosity did not extend to making available their extensive distribution infrastructure.


Decentralisation is a central defining premise of the Sonimage practice: the relocation of Sonimage to Grenoble constituted first and foremost a move from Paris, a desire to resist the political and cultural hegemony of the capital («It’s not Grenoble, it’s the provinces, and above all ‘not Paris’»[9]). Godard here seems to suggest that Grenoble was an arbitrary choice of destination, but this was not entirely the case. The draw of the presence of industrial inventor Jean-Pierre Beauviala, who had made the town the base for his technical and optical research, and fed this into the development and manufacture of Aäton cameras, should be noted; we know Godard to have been a regular visitor to the Aäton factory[10]. Similarly, one might point to the geographical location of Grenoble as a midway point between Paris and Rolle in Miéville’s native Switzerland, where Sonimage moved in 1977, and where she and Godard both still live and work. This, at least, is the rationale frequently provided by Godard: «...I was following Anne-Marie Miéville, for whom Grenoble was a stepping stone between leaving Paris and her desire to return to Switzerland. But the impetus came from her. It was also because there was Beauviala, whom we thought would be a friend»[11]. Sonimage co-financed a project in collaboration with Beauviala to develop a silent hand-held 35mm camera with the handling qualities of Super 8, to be known as the 35/8. If the project ended in failure (in Godard’s eyes, if not Beauviala’s) and mutual recriminations, the presence of Beauviala as a potential technical collaborator should not be forgotten, and Godard has often reiterated his admiration for the inventor’s work since.


Above all, the move away from Paris was an act of resistance in the face of the intensely centralised systems of televisual and cinematic production and distribution. As such, it again closely mirrors and puts into practice one of the central issues debated by the EGC, whose working groups drew up 19 projects aimed at a profound restructuring and transformation of the French film industry[12]. Amongst the most controversial was Project 4, which sought to confront the highly centralised cultural production characteristic of Gaullist France, and proposed the implementation of a number of radical steps to set in motion cultural decentralisation. In relation to cinema, this would have entailed a reorganisation of the industry around a network of regional film offices to support film production, exhibition, and training. Mobile cinemas were proposed as a means of projecting films in factories and remote rural areas. One should bear in mind that it was largely the enormity of the implications of the issues raised by Project 4 that finally (and decisively) contributed to the failure of the EGC to arrive at an agreed overall policy statement. The thrust of the Project, however, is precisely the same as that underpinning Sonimage’s logic of decentralisation. As Godard put it in 1975, «The ideal in the future, in a socialist decentralised France, would be for films to be conceived and co-produced by town councils and local collectives»[13].


If the Groupe Dziga Vertov had paid lip service to this quest to decentralise film and television production («Socialisme des régions», as Godard’s hand-written graffiti puts it in Ciné-tract 10), at times touring the regions to present and discuss their films, Sonimage put theory into practice. As René Prédal pointed out, this transposition of a living cultural organism into a provincial context reinjected life back into hollow talk of regionalisation. Sonimage effectively pre-empted government recognition and implementation of such a decentralising movement (in the guise of the establishment of eight regional cinema production houses) by ten years[14]. To create a viable working practice beyond the demands and restrictions of the dominant mainstream, Godard and Miéville deemed it vital to move geographically outside the pervasive influence of the accumulated sets of tightly centralised social, political, cultural, and economic constraints spiralling out from Paris: «What I have tried to do with Sonimage is to have a little bit of material with which to re-learn, and to take the time to compose with it. This is why we felt the need to situate ourselves away from Paris, and, conversely, to come to Paris from time to time due to its central position. You have to leave Paris to create information»[15].


This emphasis on decentralisation was complemented by an insistence on implementing a truly collaborative practice. Godard repeatedly claimed across the 1970s and 1980s that «you can only make something when there are two of you»[16]. His withdrawal from institutional frameworks of film production and distribution after 1968 constituted, in part, a desire to evade the authorial mystique to whose construction he had so largely contributed. Indeed, from his political engagement and the formation of the Groupe Dziga Vertov, through the experience of the collaborative video experiments, and across the 1980s to the present, Godard has repeatedly fought to revise and counter in his practice the powerful and distorting weight of the notion of the director as unique and original creative source. With hindsight, it is clear that Godard has always sought to work with a close-knit group of regular collaborators: throughout the 1960s, he was largely successful in achieving long-running interaction with a fairly small group of actors, producers, and technical and creative collaborators. Any attempt to reapproach Godard’s work in its entirety would doubtless have to work through this recognition of Godard as an essentially collaborative artist. He has repeatedly stressed the intrinsically collaborative nature of filmmaking and the extent to which it depends on input from diverse contributors: «And that story of auteurs, which we invented to make ourselves exist, by comparing ourselves to writers! In cinema it’s not true: filmmaking requires a minimum of two or three people, the two major parts, the outward and the return journey, the positive and the negative, the gains and the losses, to employ images. I’ve always sought to associate myself with someone else. The discovery of May 68 for me was to associate myself with Gorin, and then with Anne-Marie, another force that allows you to produce»[17].


May 68 functioned for Godard as a watershed in terms of rethinking his relation to his star status and the type of cinema within which such a status constricted him. His transition from auteur to quasi-anonymous group participant constitutes a remarkable concrete demonstration of the impact of the structuralist challenge to authorship on a then massively fêted living artist. The revision of auteurism, desire to enact Maoist contradiction, and theoretical assault on idealist conceptions of subjectivity, all converged for Godard around 1968 in the desire to redistribute received production relations via collaborative practice, constituting what he later termed «the true rupture» of 1968[18]. Furthermore, he always acknowledged the extent and depth of Gorin’s contribution, attributing to him the founding desire to conceive a new form of cinema from the point of departure of (at least) two “authors”. Godard was always scrupulous in insisting on the collaborative nature of the Groupe Dziga Vertov films, contacting Le Monde in 1971 to ask them to correct an article from the previous week which had presented the Groupe Dziga Vertov films just shown in Brussels as his alone, rather than collaborative pieces[19].


Besides Godard, Miéville, and Beauviala, the input of the other Sonimage collaborators has tended to remain unacknowledged. As regards actors, the presence of Pierre Oudry in the lead role of Numéro deux, and of Michel Marot in Comment ça va, appears to suggest continuity from the Godard/Gorin collaboration to the Sonimage work: Oudry played Frédéric, and Marot the PCF representative, in Tout va bien. But such intertextual references are decidedly loaded: Marot, we recall, plays the role of reactionary foil to Miéville’s leftist critique of the press in Comment ça va. As regards creative and technical collaborators, Gérard Martin, assistant director on Marin Karmitz’s Camarades (1969), embodies a concrete link between the Groupe Dziga Vertov and Sonimage, numbering amongst those participating in the Groupe in 1970, and subsequently credited as “conseiller technique” on Numéro deux. Of particular importance is director of photography William Lubtchansky, who shot the new 16mm material for Ici et ailleurs and the 35mm material of the video monitors in Numéro deux. He was also responsible with Dominique Chapuis for the video imagery of Six foix deux, is credited as technical adviser on France tour détour, and as director of photography (with Renato Berta and Jean-Bernard Menoud) on Sauve qui peut (la vie). Gérard Teissèdre worked as video engineer on Numéro deux and Six fois deux, and Pierre Binggeli was video adviser on France tour détour. One should constantly bear in mind that it was the expertise of all the above with the then largely unexplored domain of video technology that facilitated the Sonimage technical-aesthetic experiments[20].


In this thesis, I use the term “Sonimage” to designate the collaborative work of Jean-Luc Godard and Anne-Marie Miéville from 1973 to 1979. Insisting on these dates is necessary since, as mentioned above, the term was first appropriated by Godard in 1972, and the company technically continued to exist until 1981, co-producing both Sauve qui peut (la vie) and Passion. Godard and Miéville were eventually obliged to relinquish the title since another company was registered and trading under the same name: "Sonimage" gave way to JLG Films, which in turn became Périphéria. The completed works produced by Sonimage between 1973 and 1979 are the three films Ici et Ailleurs (1974), Numéro deux (1975), and Comment ça va (1976), and the two television series Six fois deux (1976) and France tour détour (1979). These works constitute, therefore, the primary focus of this study. I also include as integral to my corpus the surviving traces of Moi je (1973) and of Sonimage’s ambitious uncompleted collaborative project with the Mozambican government, Naissance (de l’image) d’une nation (1977-79), together with the special issue (No.300) of Cahiers du Cinéma that Godard edited in May 1979 and the partial transcripts of his 1978 lecture series at the Montreal Conservatoire d’Art Cinématographique that were published in 1980 as Introduction à une véritable histoire du cinéma.


Anne-Marie Miéville


Anne-Marie... I read on your lips... It is through you that I invent stories. (On-screen text in Nous trois)


Recent research has at last started to recognise the centrality of the work and role of Anne-Marie Miéville to Godard’s output from the early 1970s to the present. Attention will doubtless eventually also turn to her own cinematic output: Papa comme maman (made for television, 1977), How Can I Love (1984), Le Livre de Marie (1984), Faire la fête (1986), Mon cher sujet (1988), Mars et Venus (1991), Lou n’a pas dit non (1994), and Nous sommes tous encore ici (1997). (She also co-wrote the script for Michel Soutter’s L’Amour des femmes (1981); for full details, see the Filmography.) Her shifting roles with Godard in their post-Sonimage work testifies to the endurance of their collaboration and her absolute centrality within it: she co-wrote and co-edited Sauve qui peut (la vie) (1979), collaborated on Scénario du film Passion (1982), wrote the script for Prénom Carmen (1982), co-edited Je vous salue, Marie (1983), co-wrote Détective (1984), co-directed and appeared in Soft and hard (1985), co-produced Le Dernier Mot (1989), co-directed Le Rapport Darty (1989), is credited as art director on Nouvelle vague (1990), co-wrote and co-directed L’Enfance de l’art (1991),co-wrote and co-directed Pour Thomas Wainggai (1991), and co-wrote and co-directed Deux fois cinquante ans de cinéma français (1995).


The two have worked together since 1973, the lengthy reworking of the Groupe Dziga Vertov rushes shot for Jusqu’à la victoire in Ici et Ailleurs constituting the initial site of their collaboration; here they produced a seminal work which laid the ground for the entirety of the subsequent Sonimage project, and which arguably frames much of their later work (collaborative and solo). Miéville has recently evoked their subsequent (and long-standing) mutually supportive relationship, artistic as much as emotional, in her tender and humorous mise en scène of Godard in Nous sommes tous encore ici (1997). Godard, for his part, has frequently acknowledged his debt to Miéville in interviews, a recognition now enshrined in his on-screen homage to her in episode 4B of Histoire(s) du cinéma, Les Signes parmi nous.


The Sonimage work is essentially the result of a collaborative venture played out between Godard and Miéville. It revolved around an attempt to live out a working practice in which the divisions of labour and of the sexes were dissolved in a reflection on the implications of finding pleasure in one’s work whilst collaborating with a partner one loves (to love work, and work at love). If Miéville played a variety of central roles in the Sonimage work (co-author and co-director of Ici et ailleurs, Comment ça va, Six fois deux and France tour détour, co-author of Numéro deux, actor in Comment ça va, editor of Ici et ailleurs, and co-editor of Six fois deux), an unravelling of the relative input of each into the separate works serves a function more schematic than real. Miéville and Godard are equally implicated at every stage of the Sonimage project, producing a uniquely and genuinely collaborative body of work (the practice of Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet perhaps provides a close model). It is for this reason that I have no hesitation in employing the composite name Godard/Miéville where appropriate.


Male/female collaboration of this type constituted the culmination of a long-standing quest for Godard. The Godard/Gorin collaboration approached Godard’s collaborative working ideal, but the association with Miéville developed and refined the model. As a couple, they embodied Godard’s long-held desire to dissolve and merge the divisions between the sexes, and between personal life and creative production in a working practice. In the mid-1960s Godard had complained of his inability to discuss cinema with Anna Karina, suggesting that this lack of compatibility in their work culminated in the breakdown of their relationship. The conversation between Godard and Paulo in Leçons de choses (episode 2a of Six fois deux), in which Paulo adopts the laterally-thinking provocateur role embodied by Godard in countless press interviews, incorporates direct criticism of the overly male inflection of the Groupe Dziga Vertov and the Godard/Gorin collaboration: “It’s not two men who should have been speaking together, but a man and a woman”. At the time this programme was made, Godard and Miéville had been living out the model of male-female collaboration evoked here for over two years.


It should be noted that the near-total absence of interviews with Miéville in which she talks of her collaborative work with Godard poses a problem for the researcher: most first-hand testimony comes from Godard. An index of Miéville’saversion to publicity can be gauged from her refusal to respond to the series of questions sent to her by the editors of the feminist film journal Camera Obscura. They identified in the introduction to their extended special issue on Godard and Miéville’s work (which focuses primarily on the Sonimage period) this glaring lack of information on the precise nature and extent of her collaboration in specific areas of Sonimage’s practice[21]. Had she been eager to put forward her own version of her role within Sonimage, one might have expected Camera Obscura to have provided a particularly receptive forum. She has also not responded to my attempts to contact her in the course of my research for this thesis. It is not difficult to imagine that such wariness on Miéville’s part is in large part due to a reluctance to be typecast as Godard’s “assistant”. This is precisely the pigeon hole into which Gorin found himself tucked during the Groupe Dziga Vertov period, and to which, despite a fascinating and varied post-Godard filmography, he seems destined to languish[22]. Godard has himself observed that when Miéville was invited to present screenings of the Sonimage work, introductions invariably relegated her to a subservient and peripheral role: «Alas, those who are around me and collaborate with me haven’t been able to get away from the connection to me. Which has meant that at times my relationship with women I know, and things like that, have been complicated… Occasionally Anne-Marie is invited to go and present the films she’s made. But every time, when she’s introduced, they say “…who works with Godard”. They don’t say: Anne-Marie Miéville…»[23].


Contemporaneous journalistic commentaries both downplayed and belittled her role, most often simply ignoring her contribution altogether. Her reaction to this tendency to dissipate the weight of her involvement has been simply silence. Even at definitive moments in Sonimage’s trajectory, such as the debate at the INA “Bistrot des Images”, where Six fois deux was presented to the media, Miéville did not attend. Godard spoke alone, the “debate” becoming a Godardian soliloquy to an almost silent press gathering[24]. Furthermore, it is indicative of her treatment that in the article reporting this launch, Miéville is referred to as “photographer and editor at the Sonimage cooperative in Grenoble”. While she indeed fulfilled these roles, such phraseology implicitly belittles her position and contribution. I would not want to overcompensate for the critical neglect of Miéville by going too far in the other direction, but it is tempting to argue that she provided the principal dynamic and creative impulse to the Sonimage enterprise, and was primarily responsible for the thematic concerns that recur so insistently across the works. Godard, in such a reading, would be cast in a more reactive role, channeling the substance of her creative ideas into audio-visual terms. Indeed, this is a reading with which Godard himself would quite possibly concur, having repeatedly acknowledged in interviews during and after this period the degree to which the works were indebted to Miéville’s input in terms of their general working practice as much as of specific scenes, images, and dialogue.


Miéville’s strategy of silence has, arguably, paid dividends following the dissolution of Sonimage. Rather than evaporating in the wake of Godard’s image, or condemned to struggle (like Gorin) with the overbearing shadow of a short period of collaboration with him, Miéville has succeeded in establishing a strong independent cinematic identity through her own work, even whilst continuing to work in a great variety of collaborative roles with Godard to the present.


Aims of thesis


The Sonimage era has remained largely unexplored, and critical interest in the Sonimage work has tended to overlook its context (the painful post-68 trajectory out of militant politics), and to ignore several of the key works virtually entirely. Thus Ici et Ailleurs, Comment ça va, and Six fois deux have attracted minimal attention from critics, Numéro deux and France tour détour faring only slightly better. As for the various uncompleted Sonimage projects, most have never been explored in any detail. Neglected by aestheticians, who dismissed the Sonimage work as a direct reembodiment of the overtly political project of the Groupe Dziga Vertov, by cinephiles, who refused to engage with work on video for television on an equal footing with cinema, and finally by political commentators, disillusioned by Godard’s revision of his political position, the history and project of the Sonimage period have remained coloured and obscured by an unfortunate convergence of critical misunderstandings and prejudices.


This state of affairs applies as much to the critical reception of the works at their time of their initial distribution (or broadcast) as to subsequent research. Ici et ailleurs, Numéro deux and Comment ça va received the barest of critical attention on their release. Pointing to the fact that journalists took little interest in the Sonimage work, rarely venturing outside Paris to Grenoble, Godard ascribed the all too evident dearth of interest in the Sonimage work to preconceptions regarding regional marginal collaborative video practice as “sub-cinema” and hence negligible[25]. Other than Le Monde’s nostalgic heralding of Godard’s "return" to cinema on its front page, the only notable exception was Cahiers du Cinéma’s marking of the release of Numéro deux with a dossier of articles that sought to engage with Sonimage’s new political agenda and the radically novel video-infused form of the work[26]. The reaction of the mainstream press in relation to this body of work has, I suggest, largely held sway to the present. The tendency was to dismiss the whole enterprise as a purely Godardian project, one that is for the most part narcissistic and incomprehensible. John Coleman, in a vitriolic review of Numéro deux, set the tone for what has prevailed as the dominant critical opinion: «Just when it seemed that Jean-Luc Godard had finally shot his bolt, up comes Number Two to prove as much, at least to my satisfaction. [...] Number Two is as close to self-indulgent aestheticism as you can get, an obfuscation of two or three things its director knows about Life»[27]. The critical reassessment demanded by Godard’s re-entry into art cinema with Sauve qui peut (la vie) in 1979 served, perhaps paradoxically, to close off the years 1973 to 1979 rather than focus attention on them: the Sonimage work, when visible, was viewed almost universally as an aberration, and his return to “real” cinema a return to sanity.


Given this context of confusion and critical neglect, the main aim of this thesis is simply to bring the Sonimage work into the light. In addition, it intends, through archival research, and textual and contextual analysis, to demonstrate that the Sonimage works constitute a coherent project. Adopting and insisting on the subtitle (or ‘second first’ title) of Six fois deux, the thesis aims to demonstrate that the Sonimage project offers a unique audio-visual critique of contemporary communication: a project on and under communication, on a civilisation (French, for which read “Western”) living under communication (a formulation which, as we shall see, covers both institutional modes of communication as much as everyday speech). These are the two principal aims of this thesis. They feed into my two secondary aims: to demonstrate that the Sonimage project constitutes a self-contained critique of communications processes that precedes and foresees the influential subsequent work of theorists such as Jean Baudrillard, and, secondly, to position the Sonimage work as the site of creative ferment out of which the concerns of Godard and Miéville’s subsequent work can be shown to arise.


I will conclude with a brief word on the key non-audiovisual work produced by Godard with direct relevance to Sonimage. The anthology Jean-Luc Godard par Jean-Luc Godard contains many, but by no means all, key texts and interviews relating to Sonimage. My research has retrieved a large number of other interviews that have hitherto not been collated or referred to, and these are documented in section B.10 of the Bibliography. I also draw on Godard’s articles for the radical journal J’accuse, all but one of which to my knowledge have never been referenced or cited before (see section A.7 of the Bibliography). The other two works central to a discussion of Sonimage are the transcription of his Montreal lectures and the special issue of Cahiers du Cinéma he edited in 1979. Coming towards the end of the Sonimage era, the lectures constitute a wide-ranging process of stock-taking and self-reassessment, provide the first overt manifestation of Godard’s self-repositioning as cinema historian (which culminates in Histoire(s) du cinéma), and contain countless indications of his views on the Sonimage work, and, simultaneously, of how a route back into an art cinema underwritten by video might be negotiated. Cahiers du Cinéma No.300 is no less important in relation to Sonimage. Besides containing extensive reflections on the abandoned Mozambique project, it provides a concise résumé of the concerns and people central to Godard at the end of the Sonimage era, especially in the guise of letters to Miéville, Gorin, Beauviala, Rassam, François Albera, Elias Sanbar, and Wim Wenders.



Michael Witt


The Table of Contents is as follows:




Chapter 1: From politics to the new context: 'under' television

·       The critique of socialisation 'under' capitalism: human 'monsters'

·       The political context and enduring influence of Althusser

·       Docile bodies: the calibration of the body as machine and splintering of identity

·       From the Groupe Dziga Vertov to Sonimage: the reworking of Jusqu'à la victoire in lci et ailleurs

·       'Under' television: the new world-space redefined by the proliferation of media imagery


Chapter 2 - Sonimage on television

·       Early experimentation with video technology

·       Information theory: terms and concepts

·       Information theory at work 1: entropy

·       Information theory at work 2: the conception of the audience

·       On and against television 1: Six fois deux

·       On and against television 2: France tour détour deux enfants


Chapter 3 - On journalism

·       Godard's involvement in the alternative press after May 68

·       Objective news reporting in question: the journalist as 'criminal'

·       The explosion of the conventional interview format

·       A basic communications model: sending a letter

·       Information and the flow of capital

·       Myth in the media


Chapter 4 - On communication

·       'Entrevoir': the use of video as visual research tool

·       Imperceptible frontiers: the focus on relations and exchanges between things and people

·       Doxa doxa doxa

·       The political demonstration as paradigm of phatic communication

·       Pornography/anality: the body as figure


Chapter 5 - Under and on language

·       Under language

·       The theoretical backdrop: from structuralism to post-structuralism

·       On language

·       Metaphors we live by


Chapter 6 Texts in motion: generative metaphor

·       Generative metaphor: outline of a theory

·       Generative metaphor at work 1: Numéro deux

·       Generative metaphor at work 2: France tour détour deux enfants

·       Circularity, multiple images and reflexivity: metaphors of metaphor

·       The generation of narrative via metaphor: 'Qu'est-ce que c'est que cette histoire?'

·       Generative metaphor and viewer co-operation








The full thesis can be downloaded here:





[1]This early use of the Sonimage title is noted in Louis Marcorelles, “«6 fois 2»: Le Voyage en France de Jean-Luc Godard”, Le Monde, 18-19 July 1976, p. 14.

[2]Jean-Luc Godard, Introduction à une véritable histoire du cinéma, Albatros, Paris 1980, p. 269.

[3]These storyboard extracts illustrate one of the fullest interviews with Godard from the early 1970s, which is characterised by a marked optimism at the outset of the video experiment: “Juin 1973: Jean-Luc Godard fait le point...” (interview with Philippe Durand), Cinéma Pratique, 124/60, July-August 1973, pp. 156-160.

[4]Marc Cerisuelo, Jean-Luc Godard, Lherminier/Quatre Vents, Paris 1989, p. 197.

[5]Godard in Colin MacCabe, with Laura Mulvey and Mick Eaton, Godard: Images, Sounds, Politics, Macmillan/British Film Institute, London 1980, p. 26.

[6]Godard in "Jean-Luc Godard, télévision-cinéma-vidéo-images: paroles...", Téléciné, 202, September-October 1975 (special issue on Godard), pp. 11-13, p. 11. Godard outlines many of the premises and challenges of the Grenoble Sonimage project in this important interview.

[7] Godard in "Jean-Luc Godard: l'important c'est les producteurs" (interview by Monique Annaud), Le Film Français, 1571, 14 March 1975, p. 13.

[8]See Godard in "L'art à partir de la vie: Nouvel entretien avec Jean-Luc Godard par Alain Bergala", in Jean-Luc Godard, Jean-Luc Godard par Jean-Luc Godard, edited by Alain Bergala, Cahiers du Cinéma/Éditions de l'Étoile, Paris 1985, pp. 9-24, p. 23.

[9] Godard in “Jean-Luc Godard: l'important c'est les producteurs", p. 13.

[10]Beauviala has maintained that he and the Aäton technicians responded to Godard's critiques in the form of alterations and adjustments to their nascent innovations. See Beauviala in “La Sortie des Usines Aäton: Entretien avec Jean-Pierre Beauviala 2" (interview with Alain Bergala, Jean-Jacques Henry and Serge Toubiana), Cahiers du Cinéma, 286, March 1978, pp. 5-14, p. 12.

[11]Godard in "L'art à partir de la vie: Nouvel entretien avec Jean-Luc Godard par Alain Bergala", p. 23.

[12] See "Les États Généraux du Cinéma", Cahiers du Cinéma, 203, August 1968, pp. 23-46. See especially “Projets de nouvelles structures”, pp. 29-38.

[13]Godard in "Les aventures de Kodak et de Polaroid: Un entretien avec Jean-Luc Godard" (interview with Hervé Delilia and Roger Dosse), Politique Hebdo, 189, 18-24 September 1975, pp. 28-9, p. 28.

[14]René Prédal, Le Cinéma français contemporain, Cerf, Paris 1984, p. 238. See too Prédal’s earlier “La troisième «époque» de Jean-Luc Godard", Jeune Cinéma, 101, March 1977, pp. 23-26.

[15]Godard in "Jean-Luc Godard, télévision-cinéma-vidéo-images: paroles...",p. 12.

[16]Godard, Introduction à une véritable histoire du cinéma, p. 54.

[17]Godard in "Le chemin vers la parole" (interview with Alain Bergala, Serge Daney and Serge Toubiana), Cahiers du Cinéma, 336, May 1982, pp. 8-14 & 57-66, p. 11.

[18]Godard in "Pourquoi Tout Va Bien? Entretien avec Jean-Luc Godard et Jean-Pierre Gorin" (interview with Marlène Belilos, Michel Boujut, Jean-Claude Deschamps and Pierre-Henri Zoller), Politique Hebdo, 26, 27 April 1972. In Jean-Luc Godard par Jean-Luc Godard, pp. 367-375, p. 367.

[19]Patrick Sey, "Les films du groupe «Dziga Vertov»", Le Monde, 8 April 1971, p. 21. Similarly, a letter from Godard to the publisher of the script of Tout va bien in English (now held in the BFI archives), in which he insists on the inclusion of Gorin's name as co-author, exemplifies this concern.

[20]Further research is required into the input of those mentioned here, as well as that of Milka Assaf and Jean-Pierre Ruh on Numéro deux and Philippe Rony on France tour détour.

[21]Janet Bergstom, Elisabeth Lyon and Constance Penley, “Introduction”, Camera Obscura, 8-9-10, Fall 1982, p. 5.

[22]Gorin had long been treated in the press as a political dogmatist who had corrupted the purity of an art cinema auteur, and many journalistic commentaries of this period rounded personally on Gorin as the focus of their disillusionment at Godard's politicisation. See, for example, Andrew Sarris, 'films in focus' (sic), The Village Voice, 30 April 1970, pp. 53, 61, & 63-64.

[23] Godard, Introduction à une véritable histoire du cinéma, p. 285.

[24]Mathilde La Bardonnie, "Un Débat de l'INA: Godard au «Bistrot des images»", Le Monde, 21 August 1976, pp. 1 & 14.

[25]Godard in "L'art à partir de la vie: Nouvel entretien avec Jean-Luc Godard par Alain Bergala", p. 23.

[26]See Jean de Baroncelli, "La sortie de Numéro deux: La galaxie Godard", Le Monde, 25 September 1975, p. 1, and the dossier of articles on the film bySerge Le Péron, Serge Toubiana, Thérèse Giraud, Louis Skorecki and Serge Daney in Cahiers du Cinéma, 262-263, January 1976, pp. 9-40.

[27] John Coleman, “2 or 3 Things”, New Statesman, 28 January 1977, pp. 132-133.