In his latest film, “The Image Book,” shown at the 2018 New York Film Festival and now in commercial release, legendary filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard regales us with an onslaught of imagery that cumulatively expresses his take on our future from the perspective of his age of 88 and his career in cinema. It is not cause for optimism.
We have come to expect something different from the iconoclast each time out, and his early films like “Breathless” seem models of clarity in comparison with what we get in this new exploration. As we sit watching, it is as if our minds were a giant screen against which Godard projects his thoughts.
They come in a compendium of clips from old and more recent films, news reports, atrocities, warfare, the humane and the inhumane, all sorts of photographs—in short, a visual museum of society as it has existed in the past century. Much is not a pretty picture. Think of a village being obliterated, for example.
This is a film that demands a lot just to sit through it. One’s brain can feel under siege, and it is a hopeless project even to begin to count the images that flash rapidly before our eyes in the filmmaker’s summary of contemporary existence.
One is constantly challenged to derive meaning from particular images, to blend all into something cohesive. What emerges is Godard’s bleak view of so-called civilization and where the world is headed. This could be Godard’s final warning shot, as well as a last example of his artistry that refuses to conform to the conventional or expected. Or, with any luck, Godard will have much more life left and be back with further challenges to demonstrate his continued cinematic genius. A Kino Lorber release. Reviewed January 27, 2019.