The veteran auteur returns to Cannes with his latest essay film, a mosaic of clips and fragments lent the urgency and terror of a horror movie
The Image Book is a work that reprises many of Jean-Luc Godard’s familiar ideas, but with an unexpected urgency and visceral strangeness. It’s an essay film with the body-language of a horror movie, avowedly taking Godard’s traditional concerns with the ethical status of cinema and history and looking to the Arab world and indirectly examining our orientalism – Godard cites the Conradian phrase for a culture held “under Western eyes”.
Appropriately there are some amazingly fierce images, and the screen of Cannes’s Grand Theatre Lumiere is a colossal canvas over which to spread them.
As so often in the past, Godard churns the dark waters of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Image fragments are dislodged from the deep, and come floating up to the surface: paintings, news headlines, classic Hollywood clips, often digitally distorted or bleached out or suffused with a snow-blind white glow. These are juxtaposed with brutal news footage and Isis YouTube propaganda. Here are the alienations and macroaggressions of the contemporary world.
The Image Book is the signature Godard irony-mosaic of clips and fragments, with sloganised, gnomic texts, puns in brackets, sudden fades-to-black, unpredictable, unsynchronised sound cues which appear to have been edited quite without the usual concern for aural seamlesness, and vast, declamatory orchestral chords.