chapter  7
Breaking Down: Godard's Histories
Pages 8

In 1995, when Pierre Bourdieu wanted to attack the institutions of television, he decided to use television to deliver his message. In two televised lectures, later published as On Television, Bourdieu presents a careful sociological critique of the mechanisms that constitute authority and privilege in the media, along with a strident denunciation of the market pressures, themselves transmitted by television, which have wrecked the hard-won accomplishments and dissolved the self-generated autonomy of artistic and intellectual cultures. But Bourdieu seems to recognize that even the most clear, most reasonable critique will not strike television where it lives. At the beginning of his analysis, he suggests in passing that what is really needed is "a true critique of images through images-of the sort you find in some of Jean-Luc Godard's films:'! As an example, strangely enough, Bourdieu cites only Letter to Jane, one of Godard's great didactic works of the early 1970s. It consists largely of a lengthy critical commentary spoken over a single magazine image of Jane Fonda in Hanoi. It might be considered a high point in the "essay-film;' but today we would have to say that "the critique of images by images" cannot proceed one by one, one film for one photo. Just as, on one hand, it is never enough to offer a "critique" of television that would be content to pick out the better programs or the more adventurous programmers, it is always too much, on the other hand, to put all images under suspicion when insisting upon the irreducibly spectacular dimension of contemporary culture.