Thursday, September 27, 2018

Le Livre d'image / The Image Book

Theme: French Touch Selection
Country: France, Switzerland
Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Screenplay: Jean-Luc Godard
Starring: Jean-Luc Godard
Production: Fabrice Aragno / Casa Azul Films
Duration: 85 min
Age limit: K7
    Language: Arabic, English, Italian, French
    Subtitles: English, partly English
    Distribution: Wild Bunch
    Print source: Wild Bunch
    Cinematography: Fabrice Aragno
    Music: Editions ECM
    Editing: Jean-Luc Godard, Fabrice Aragno
FR/CH © 2018 Caza Azul Productions.
Helsinki International Film Festival (HIFF)
DCP with English subtitles viewed at Kino Engel, Helsinki, 27 Sep 2018

Peter Bradshaw quoted by HIFF: "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 […]."

"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."

"In The Image Book he appears to gesture, again, at the subject of cinema’s culpable failure to witness the horrors of the modern world, failure to account for Auschwitz and Hiroshima. […]. This is, I think, still at the heart of Godard’s view and at the heart of the title here. What is the status of the image? Is it text? If it is a sign then what is its real-world referent? Just another sign?"

"It is bewildering. I’m not sure I understood more than a fraction and of course it can be dismissed as obscurantism and mannerism. But I found The Image Book rich, disturbing and strange." Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian, as quoted by HIFF

AA: Jean-Luc Godard is at his most serious in his new film.

I start with quoting a poem from JLG himself. It is the official synopsis of the movie:

Te souviens-tu encore comment nous entrainions autrefois notre pensée ?
Le plus souvent nous partions d’un rêve …

Nous nous demandions comment dans l’obscurité totale
Peuvent surgir en nous des couleurs d’une telle intensité

D’une voix douce et faible
Disant de grandes choses
D’importantes, étonnantes, de profondes et justes choses

Image et parole

On dirait un mauvais rêve écrit dans une nuit d’orage

Sous les yeux de l’Occident
Les paradis perdus

La guerre est là …

Le Livre d'image is an eminently visual book of contemporary poetry, a picture book, a stream of consciousness.

The first part of the movies is a rearrangement of JLG's visual obsessions, familiar from Histoire(s) du cinéma and others. Visual memory flashes gain new meanings. We are invited to an inner dialogue with films, books, poems, and artworks.

The latter part largely focuses on the turbulence in the Arab world, and the roots of terrorism in the war of Algeria. The violence and the horror of war has never been more startling in a Godard film.

Adieu au langage was one of Godard's best movies. He was the youngest film-maker of the year 2014 with an explosive, playful touch and a great sense of the rhythm of the montage.

Le Livre d'image is darker, more obsessive.

Godard keeps honing his own personal approach to colourism. The images are electronic paintings with a colour range from the extremely subdued to the ultra exaggerated. Low definition is a means of expression.

Often the image vanishes, and only the sound remains. As a sound work Le Livre d'image is an impressive artistic achievement, from the muttered inner monologues to the roaring sounds of burning and warfare.

I keep thinking about the madness that was revered by the classics of antiquity. Madness as a source of creativity and inspiration. All is not meant to make sense. We are swimming beneath consciousness.

The final remarks about hope bring to my mind the last films of Peter von Bagh and Aki Kaurismäki.

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