Avant garde, dizzyingly impressionistic, infinitely experimental, confounding, opaque, intellectually dense, eclectic, kaleidoscopic, discursive, freewheeling and infuriating too – Godard’s arresting audio-visual montage The Image Book is such a distinctive and defiantly unclassifiable work that the most pertinent epithet to summarize it is probably ‘Godardian’. The film played out along three different axes, viz. a barrage of socio-politically bristling ideas, a thrilling array of cinematic references, and – in defiance of the fact that he’s nearly a nonagenarian – unceasing formal playfulness. Its topicality is emphasized by some of the themes that are covered – wars, imperialism, colonial exploitation, horrors of the Holocaust, oppression of the Palestinian people, the complex role played by trains in both industrial progress and massacres, etc. – even if one can never be fully sure of everything or where he’s taking us to, in the way he even mixed real contexts with fictitious passages. The themes were juxtaposed and counterpointed with a hypnotic and beguiling collage of sequences from a string of works both renowned and obscure, including Aldrich’s Kiss Me Deadly, Keaton’s The General, Nicholas Ray’s Johnny Guitar, Hitchcock’s Vertigo, Pasolini’s Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom, Gus Van Sant’s Elephant, etc., as well as few of his own too, like Le Petit Soldat. The above facets were stitched together through a myriad video and tonal manipulations with the medium – hyper-saturation of images, abrupt changes in aspect ratios, superimpositions, etc., and not to mention the recurring haunting score, and an idiosyncratic narration by Godard himself in a hoarse voice, large sections of which weren’t subtitled. The work, therefore, highlighted his continued love affair with digital filmmaking, while emphatically underscoring his non-puritanical iconoclasm and re-confirming the vitality of his caméra-stylo.
Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Genre: Essay Film/Experimental Film