#REVIEW: “THE IMAGE BOOK”
Review by George Kozera for Mr. Will Wong
Legendary Director, Jean-Luc Godard’s THE IMAGE BOOK won a special Palme d’Or from Cate Blanchett’s jury on the closing night at the Cannes Film Festival last year. It is, in essence, a hallucinatory visual scrapbook of disjointed images with much of the narration from the 87 year old Director himself. Using scenes from movies as diverse as Young Mr. Lincoln, Pasolini’s Salo, Vertigo, Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast, Joan Crawford in Johnny Guitar and many from his early movies alongside newsclips of ISIS attacks, WWII footage, Klimt paintings and a still from Marilyn Monroe’s last photo shoot, it is a provocative and surreal kaleidoscope of sometimes degraded images that confound and exhilarate.
Two of Godard’s obsessions/passions/interests (one is never quite sure of where and why he is featuring these) are prominent with more screen time devoted to them. One is trains: a longer amount of time features them predominantly, from comedic with Buster Keaton to ones with tragic consequences. I personally could not ascertain what Godard is trying to tell us and just thought that he was as obsessed with trains as Sheldon Cooper is from The Big Bang Theory. Another prevalent series features his interest in the Arab world and how misunderstood and misconceived they are. These images were both hypnotic and frustrating to witness.
Admittedly, I know little about Godard the man versus Godard the Filmmaker, hence I was happy to have seen Redoubtable, a French fictionalized film about how Godard became revolutionized in the late 60s. So when the Director’s narrations included things like “We are never sad enough to make the world better” or “The East is more philosophical than the West and everyone is a philosopher because he has time to reflect”, instead of thinking that grandpa has been nipping into the absinthe again, I can see WHY he says things like that even if I don’t fully understand the subtext.
I enjoyed THE IMAGE BOOK on many levels. At times, it was like finding Waldo (Oh! That’s the scene from Dali’s Le Chien Andalou) or being mesmerized by colours reminiscent of a Peter Max painting. It is Godard’s most accessible movies in a long time. It is also paradoxical, prohibitive, enchanting, confusing, grotesque and divine. THE IMAGE BOOK will take you on a sensory overload trip and it made me happy that I boarded the train to go on a journey to a destination unknown and exotic.
THE IMAGE BOOK opens at the TIFF Bell Lightbox on Friday, January 25, 2019.