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Critics reviews
The Image Book
Jean-Luc Godard France, 2018
[Godard’s] bold recomposition of the images and his manipulations of color and speed—plus musical excerpts, literary quotations, and his own gravelly voice-over—analyze the past century of war, politics, and romance in film, to pose the question of how images become iconic.
January 18, 2019
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Every film that octogenarian Jean-Luc Godard makes could well be his last. Another summarizing work, The Image Book is a compressed, expressionistic history of cinema. Full of degraded images and florid distortions, it’s brutally unpretty and stunningly beautiful. Serene in his fury, this magisterial artist cannot stop thinking about it all—technology, history, the end of the world.
January 03, 2019
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The Image Book is a new step for Godard, a foray into a world decentered from its European ground. It is a provisional film, feeling its way and testing analytic and aesthetic categories. It doesn’t always succeed, but it has the sense of a beginning, and that gives hope that it is the start of something new.
January 02, 2019
Manipulation . . . is everywhere, closely allied with the operations of the digital, from the Latin digitus, ‘finger’ or ‘toe’. And through it all, to the end, when Godard coughs his way through proclaiming the need for “ardent hope” in the face of the “strongest nights”, The Image Book contemplates what possibilities of salvation and beauty might still reside in our horrific and uncertain world.
December 06, 2018
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There may be logic to the constant barrage of text, sound and image, but it is very much in the eye of the beholder. What this film does is make it feel exciting to look, listen and feel.
December 03, 2018
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Just as Goodbye to Language acknowledged—no, embodied—our inability to function without the structures (symbolic, semiotic) and hierarchies (ideological, cultural) that make up our specific existence and which come part and parcel with language, The Image Book does so with a visual lexicon of which cinema is but a part.
October 10, 2018
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If cinema, for all its polysemous potential to complicate the fateful, scriptural marriage of word and image, offered a kind of Plan B, but also ultimately failed to subvert (or liberate us from) the fixed subject-object representation whereby power is reiterated and reproduced, this is why Godard turns (again) to the Brechtian “fragment” as a last refuge of that malleable, polysemous potential.
October 08, 2018
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While even loyalists may find “The Image Book” sometimes rough going, it is a fascinating object, partly because Mr. Godard, now 87, seems to be sifting through a lifetime of images and ideas (on war and more war) amid shocks of beauty and horror.
October 03, 2018
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At 87, Godard is still with us and, amazingly enough, still cranking out films that bristle with energy and inventiveness. Though I wouldn’t place it as among his very best, “The Image Book” struck me as a more agreeable and engaging feature than his last few.
September 29, 2018
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Godard weds and wrests images, text, and music into a thrilling, gnomic salvo, returning to the protracted three-decade late style of his magnum opus, Histoire(s) du cinéma (1988-98).
September 07, 2018
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Of all the feature-length movies Godard has made since Histoire(s), this is the most abstract, in the sense that only the last of its five sections has anything like a narrative. Godard has used almost all of these images in other collage films, but here they are even more fragmented, transformed with variable speeds, colorization, and other digital processes.
July 03, 2018
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It’s been fascinating to watch him try to arrive at some kind of endpoint where the film itself, his ongoing work, his relation to the art of cinema, and the impending end of his own existence will somehow converge. . . . To see Le Livre d’image at the Cannes Film Festival as it is now was a moving experience, like a signal from a now distant moment.
July 03, 2018
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A work of montage, a dynamic assembly of images and sounds, whether created by Godard’s own hand or plucked from humanity’s audiovisual reservoirs. And the principles governing this montage-practice are primarily tactile in nature: it is the feel of an image, the feel of a sound, that governs Godard’s hand on the (virtual) editing table, more so than any explicit meaning or intentionality.
June 27, 2018
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Title notwithstanding, sound is at least as important as image: Voice-of-Godard musings and snatches of film dialogue encircle the viewer in ricocheting surround sound, which Godard deploys for maximum disorientation, much as he did 3-D in Goodbye to Language (2014).
May 29, 2018
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For all my initial bafflement, The Image Book continued to haunt me. Maybe that’s all Godard wanted. Throughout the festival, in conversation, I found myself going over and over his editing strategies. . . . It felt as if, true to his title, Godard was creating a compendium of images, an encyclopedia of visual references for the Western mind.
May 24, 2018
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Disjointed and direct, exhilarating and soporific, cerebral and squirrelly: The Image Bookis 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.
May 14, 2018
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Undoubtedly the most experimental feature ever shown in Cannes competition . . . The Image Book feels like notes from the underground, a bunker film, trying to assemble and learn from the moving image remnants of humankind in the 20th and 21st century.
May 13, 2018
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It’s through exercising a certain kind of madness—the demented way that Godard asserts his own presence in The Image Book—that the film connects even at its most disjointed.
May 13, 2018
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Essentially, we are thrust into what is designed to feel like chaos, and the act of watching The Image Book feels like a process of categorization, of putting words and images into cognitive compartments so that the sensual can translate into sense.
May 12, 2018
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The Image Book if nothing else, is inestimable, in that it defies normal estimation or assessment; to encounter a film this intransigently confrontational by an artist who shows no sign of softening will be a nightmare for many, but yes, for many a privilege and a pleasure.
May 11, 2018
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