It’s not every day that cinephiles get treated to a new work by the inimitable Jean-Luc Godard. For his latest feat, the French master has crafted a lyrical cinematic essay on the nature of all things. If anyone can pull it off, it’s Godard.
Winner of the first Special Palme d’Or to be awarded in the history of the Cannes Film Festival, “The Image Book,” or “Le Livre d’image,” is a provocative kaleidoscope of film and world history that concludes in an apocalyptic climax. So grand is this finale that IndieWire chief critic Eric Kohn called it “one of the most authentic endings in the filmmaker’s nearly 60-year career.”
Placing “The Image Book” in the context of Godard’s more recent work, including 2014’s 3D experiment “Goodbye to Language” and the multi-part film history essay “Histoire(s) du cinéma,” Kohn continues: “The new project speeds through classic film clips, disposable film clips, and wartime imagery — often shown in poor, low-res quality — as he grapples with the relationship between the violent power struggles that dominate the real world and their sanitized versions in movies. No wonder he swore off conventional narrative decades ago: In ‘The Image Book,’ Godard theorizes that images obscured our imminent demise.”
Per the official synopsis: “Godard pieces together fragments and clips them from some of the greatest films of the past, then digitally alters, bleaches, and washes them, all in the service of reflecting on what he sees in front of him and what he makes of the dissonance that surrounds him. He uses his own voice, reminiscent of those of Leonard Cohen or Bob Dylan in the twilights of their careers, to guide us through the fascinating labyrinth of his mind. In some cases it is to reflect on the metaphysical properties of the world – time, and space, and where meaning is found – but more importantly it is the image, the thing that has obsessed Godard for his entire career, that anchors this film.”
Kino Lorber will release “The Image Book” in New York on January 25 at the IFC Center and Film Society of Lincoln Center, and in Los Angeles on February 15 at American Cinematheque.
Check out IndieWire’s exclusive trailer of this groundbreaking new work below.