Review written 11/05/2018.
Oscar Wilde once said that all art is pointless. Jean-Luc Godard’s The Image Book makes a compelling case for the truth in that assertion.
The film does almost everything a film can possibly do and is undeniably mesmerising, but I defy anyone who says Godard’s grand concept reveals itself in any way upon first viewing. Stunted snippets from over a century of art, cinema, and historic news footage, spliced with stunted snippets of sound and the droll utterances of Godard himself philosophising in broken translations form the entirety of the New Wave maestro’s latest step towards oblivion. Godard himself followed up the release by declaring that ‘actors are boring, filming is boring’, going further to challenge cinemagoers with the assertion that cinema shouldn’t show us things that we know, but things that we don’t. This film could do with some actors, some legitimate filming, and at least a smidgeon of knowingness rather than an abyssal vacuum of nothing knowledge and pretentious musings.
The Image Book may be about the cyclic nature of cinema and history, or it may be a commentary on the transmutability of language and images. I don’t know. All that I do know is that whilst it was categorically a hideous creation on an objective level, it was bizarrely mesmerising, alike a dog with its face on its backside and its backside on its head – a perversion of the natural order but something that must be seen to be believed. Evidently this is a work of some kind of passion and the trademark of a mad genius… a really, really mad genius, bs the news reels and cinematic reference points escalate in their boldness and their provocativity, so too does the disquieting and discombobulating effect of Godard’s film, an effect almost certainly intended but also almost certain to be widely unappreciated. The snores that overbore the lukewarm applause at the film’s end after an infinitely long 90 minutes were truly telling of the general feel around the Palais, everybody was no doubt honoured to be witnessing the progeny of an auteur once a master of cinema, but nobody enjoyed what he had up his sleeve for us.
Of all the films I have seen at the Cannes Film Festival this may well stand to be the most unique and most memorable. But… and this is a big one… I wish it wouldn’t.
The Image Book has no current plans for UK distribution, you should be thankful to hear.
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Check out the teaser trailer for the film BELOW.