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Well over a decade in the making, this eight-part, 264-minute video (1998) is Jean-Luc Godard's magnum opus, but it's never been widely seen; Gaumont, which produced it, has never cleared the rights to its many film clips and artworks shown outside of France, and even there the commercial release has only monaural sound—a significant loss for a work that uses stereo so centrally. (Ironically, the proper sound track is available only in a CD set, accompanied by a translation of most of the text.) Daunting, provocative, and very beautiful, this meditative essay looks at the history of the 20th century through cinema and vice versa, mainly through a rich assortment of clips (sometimes superimposing more than one), sound tracks (sometimes paired with visuals from other films), poetic commentary (with plenty of metaphors), and captions. For better and for worse, it's comparable to James Joyce's Finnegans Wake in both its difficulty and its playfulness. In French with subtitles.

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