The Image Book – Film Review

Oh, Jean-Luc, what have you have ye done? Jean-Luc Godard is undeniably one of the greatest directors who ever lived. That’s mostly down to his incredible body of work from roughly 1960 to ’68, plus he made a handful of good films in the ’80s. However, since the late ’80s his films have become deliberately more obtuse and, frankly, turgid as he has moved exclusively into essay films. The latest one is unbearable, and it’s only 84 minutes long.

The “film” is deliberately an “anti-film,” but as always it has some phoney love/hate relationship with western culture, primarily cinema. He uses everything from clips from Michael Bay’s 13 Hours to clips from some of his favourite films, like Kiss Me Deadly and Johnny Guitar. It’s all to illustrate Western imperialism, specifically in the Arab world. He mixes the old film clips with ISIS propaganda, new footage, etc. all in this abstract way that looks like he did it on Windows Movie Maker… which he probably did.

Slogans that pop up on the screen feature heavily, a tactic that Godard started using way back in the ’60s.  They are not particularly “deep,” and to make them seem deep to naval-gazing film-critic wankers, he decides not to translate a chunk of the film into English, which is something he has been doing in the recent films… SO EDGY! He quotes or references some old favourites of his, such as Arthur Rimbaud, Karl Marx, Honoré de Balzac, to be like “look how deep I am, I’ve read all these guys.” But so did every other French college student of his generation, so it hardly sets him apart.

Godard is now 87, and if ever a filmmaker needed to retire, it’s him. He is repeating the same bourgeois crap he has been saying for five decades… except he hates the “bourgeois,” despite being as fucking bourgeois as you can get. He was never a revolutionary, and at his most “revolutionary” period, he decided to take up arms with Maoists… FUCKING MAOISTS, followers of the communist dictator who was responsible for tens of millions of deaths of innocent people. He recently said “great cinema makers are close to anarchists,” which is at least on the right track, but in the recent biopic of Godard in late ’60s, Redoubtable, there is a great scene where the student activists openly laugh at his proclamations. Shame French financiers haven’t done that with his films.

Fans of his later stuff often talk about how beautiful the images are, and in the case of this film that’s hilarious. He often uses clips of films, some by dead friends of his, but often in the wrong aspect ratio, and sometimes he cuts mid-scene into a cropped aspect ratio of the same sequence. It’s completely disrespectful to the filmmakers and left a bad taste in my mouth. The image manipulation looks like he let one of his great-grandkids mess around in Adobe After Effects mid-K-hole. So let’s be honest: nobody actually likes Godard’s later stuff: they just claim they do so they can feel superior to those “who don’t get it.”

Ian Schultz

The film will screen as a special one-day event screening in select 7.1 surround sound cinemas in the UK on Sunday 2nd December ahead of its exclusive streaming release on MUBI on Monday 3rd December.


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