Leeds International Film Festival – The Image Book

Director & Writer: Jean-Luc Godard

Reviewer: Rich Jevons

Director of some 127 films, including the recent Goodbye to Language in 3D, the 87-year-old narrates in a 10,000 Marlboro voice. It consists of a five-part mosaic of archive material and fictionalised sections that provide Godard’s radical discourse on the state of the world. In particular, the Middle East.

The sporadic scenes come from news footage as well as excerpts from his own films and other classics such as The Passion of Joan of Arc, Salo, The General and Citizen Kane.

To add to the general bewilderment, Godard uses surround sound to bombard us, often in untranslated French. The subjects include remakes, the law, and, as mentioned, the Middle East. It often focuses on either terrorist or state-backed atrocities, but these are used quite coldly and not really shocking at all. The rapid display of short often interrupted, sequences provokes less outrage, more lethargy and disinterest.

Much of the footage is digitally distorted, sometimes in intense colourism, or slowed down, or just cut-up randomly. There are also frequent fades to mere black-screen, though the narration goes on its weary way nonetheless. The overall effect is to be more of a cinematic semantic semiological essay than any kind of entertainment – maybe the latter would be too much to ask of such a ‘revolutionary’. And if you really wanted to know about the sign and the signifier wouldn’t you really just go to the University library and take out some Barthes?

Even if you go along with the leftist/Communist views, wouldn’t it be preferable not to take on such an obscurantist and alienating form? What exactly are we meant to make of the juxtaposition of old movies and modern atroctricites? That we are culpable as viewers or simply part of ‘the society of the spectacle’? Either way, the film falls somewhat flat on its face and has little interest other than to let us know that Jean-Luc Godard is alive and well, and still angry as hell. And hell is exactly what this hour and a half often feels like – go see À bout de souffle instead.

Reviewed on 5th November 2018 | Image: Contributed

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