The Image Book
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The Image Book

The Image Book

If you’ve ever wondered what Jean-Luc Godard’s Pinterest board would look like, The Image Book, playing in competition here in Cannes, will give you some idea. At this point, it feels wrong to call the 87-year-old Swiss-born Godard, perhaps the crankiest of all the fathers of the New Wave, a living legend. He’s really more of a folk myth. Cantankerous and reclusive, Godard speaks—when he makes any kind of public pronouncement at all—in a kind of growly semaphore. In 2014, when his marvelous 3D collage Goodbye to Language played the festival, he declined to appear in person to present the film, instead sending a cryptic yet compelling nearly nine-minute video letter of explanation (sort of) to then-outgoing festival president Gilles Jacob and festival director Thierry Fremaux. The video, which Jacob and Fremaux posted online, includes clips and sound bites from his own films, including Burgess Meredith, in the 1987 King Lear, telling Molly Ringwald, “I don’t have my heart in my mouth.” Then, in a video image, Godard himself appears, echoing those words: “I don’t have my heart in my mouth anymore either.”

The Image Book suggests that’s true, and perhaps whatever heart Godard has is in his eyes. (This time around, though, Godard did show up for his Cannes press conference, electronically, at least: He answered journalists’ questions in absentia, via FaceTime on an iPhone held aloft in the press room.) Disjointed and direct, exhilarating and soporific, cerebral and squirrelly: The Image Book is lots of contradictory things at once. And if it’s hard to understand exactly what Godard is trying to say in this brief scrapbook scamper—it clocks in at one hour, 25 minutes—just watching it is a strange, melancholy pleasure, and an open window into the world of things that worry its creator.

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The Image Book
The Image Book