Image Book (Le Livre d’Image)
Jean-Luc Godard’s Le Livre d’Image is an undergraduate thesis run amok: no referencing, no clear argument, emphatic aphoristic claims and a wild tangent on the Arab World. It’s a fractured, disorientating law and literature project on order and image. It’s also a quite brilliant avant-garde pose poem, a piecing together of fragments, a compilation deceptive to the senses, beguiling for the intellect. It’s literally nonsense.
Godard mines the history of cinema and letters to produce a compellingly edited, overwhelming audio and visual experience. From Bertolt Brecht to Alfred Hitchcock, from Arthur Rimbaud to Gus van Sant, he marries abstracted words and pictures in a cavalcade of abridged moments. Decontextualised from their original form, these moments amount to a chaotic bricolage, one stripped of original intent but imbued with new purpose. But what purpose?
The work abhors and accepts violence, environmental destruction and human capacity for harm, while it understands the value of symbol in political life and its ability to suppress and express desires. This often appears in desires for sovereignty, both collective and individual. How does one create a group identity and a sense of self through language? Godard rearticulates the film clip pick-and-mix by heightening contrast, distorting frame and sound, halting before every climax.
He’s playing with us. Given his obsession with legal authority and the maintenance of order, each jump and pause indicates how the law works: its power comes through the process of anticipation rather than action, through the aporia of decision. This process draws on literary and cinematic aesthetics.
If Godard worries about the inadequacy of language to address war and politics, he still presents a conventional message on Orientalism. The final act on Western-centric media perceptions – an inadequate description, itself – veers into high-minded moralism, one still filtered through a galvanising, perplexing prism. Sometimes opaque, tricksy and pretentious, Le Livre d’Image is a genuinely thrilling multi-sensory work. Many would suggest it belongs in an art gallery. Yes, and in a cinema too.
Image Book (Le Livre d’Image) does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Cannes Film Festival 2018 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Cannes Film Festival website here.
Watch the trailer for Image Book (Le Livre d’image) here: