One of the least and one of the most provocative video documentaries in the British Film Institute’s “Century of Cinema” series, which is devoted to various national cinemas. Typically British (1994), a “personal” look at British cinema by Stephen Frears, is basically a chat with screenwriter and former critic Gavin Lambert and the late Scottish director Alexander Mackendrick during the time that Frears was in Hollywood shooting Mary Reilly; it’s buttressed by clips and a very lazy survey of British cinema that glosses over Humphrey Jennings and Michael Powell and omits Joseph Losey. By contrast, 2 x 50 Years of French Cinema (1995), Anne-Marie Mieville and Jean-Luc Godard’s carefully aimed spitball, contests the whole nature of the series by pointing out that what’s being celebrated is the commercial exploitation of cinema, not its production (projectors, not cameras, dominate the publicity). Set in an alpine hotel, their polemic begins with Godard questioning actor Michel Piccoli about the “centennial,” proceeds by having Piccoli question hotel employees, and ends movingly with a celebration of French writers who have an important relation to cinema, a brief survey that stretches from Denis Diderot to Serge Daney. The middle section sags a bit because of all the (deliberately) obscure references to French cinema, but this is still essential viewing.