Gérard Courant is a French filmmaker, who, at least until 2011, held the distinction of directing the longest film ever made. Clocking in at 192 hours, and shot over 36 years (1978-2006), Cinématon consisted of “a series of over 2,880 silent vignettes (cinématons), each 3 minutes and 25 seconds long, of various celebrities, artists, journalists and friends of the director, each doing whatever they want for the allotted time.” Ken Loach, Wim Wenders, Terry Gilliam, Julie Delpy all made appearances. And so too did Jean-Luc Godard. (See below.)
While making Cinématon, Courant also created another kind of experimental film — what he calls “compressed” films. In 1995, he shot Compression de Alphaville, an accelerated homage to Jean-Luc Godard 1965 sci-fi film, Alphaville. Then came a “compression” (top) of Godard’s À bout de souffle/Breathless (1960), the classic of French New Wave cinema.
During the 1960s and 1970s, when Courant came of age as a filmmaker, sculptors like César Baldaccini created art by compressing everyday objects–like Coke cans–into modern sculptures. So Courant took things a step further and figured why not compress art itself. Why not compress a 90 minute film into 3-4 minutes, while keeping the plot of the original film firmly intact.
Along the way, Courant asked himself: Do compressed films honor the original? Does one have the right to touch these masterpieces? And can one decompress these compressed films and then return them to their original form? Ponder these questions as you watch the examples above.
Note: If you read French, Courant gives more of the backstory on his compressed films here.
Jean-Luc Godard Gives a Dramatic Reading of Hannah Arendt’s “On the Nature of Totalitarianism”
A Young Jean-Luc Godard Picks the 10 Best American Films Ever Made (1963)
Jefferson Airplane Wakes Up New York; Jean-Luc Godard Captures It (1968)
Watch the Rolling Stones Write “Sympathy for the Devil”: From Jean-Luc Godard’s ’68 Film One Plus One
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