By Mónica Delgado
Jean-Luc Godard may be the only filmmaker in the world that can achieve to get more than three thousand people in a film theater to make them watch (or force them to watch) experimental cinema. Because of this, the inclusion of a film like Le Livre d’Image (The Image Book) in the Official Competition of Cannes is interesting, both in the extra-cinematic aspect I mention and the aspect of the experimental essay in itself, the one where Godard turns the Lumiére room in a great installation or space for experimentation.
Unlike his previous film, Goodbye to language –which was also in competition in Cannes and was a winner of a jury prize together with Dolan’s Mommy , and that challenged the audience in the festival, in Le Livre d’Image, Godard returns to the motifs of Histoire(s) du Cinéma to reflect about cinema, but also to attack here with diverse ideas, quotes, frames, songs and his own voice over, a political panorama of the image, of its uses, appropriations and senses, alluding the relation of Occident with the Arab world, Orientalism, Russian power and the result of conflicts and terrorism today.
This “Image Book” that Godard re-elaborates is divided in four parts. In the first one, the closest one to Histoire(s) du Cinéma, he centers his film in the auscultation of time and memory from different episodes or moments of cinema, and how remakes are not only a matter of cinema themselves in a close field of significants, an object that copies itself inside the same system or language, but in their simile or simulacra, where they are replicated in reality. His versions of remakes appear beyond fiction, now converted in constructs assumed per se and which define what’s real.
Then, after the next parts of this book, he stops in the figure of trains as another kind of “remake” but not of history, memory or simulation, but in their sense of movement. Then, the conceptual thesis of the first two parts about time and movement, affirm themselves in the political discourses that rule and create new conceptions of the world, in capital topics of current politics, even with a gaze on women representation in the new feminist movements. Godard shoots at everything in Le Livre d’ Image.
The start of the film defines its psyche. The hands as a defining element of the actions against man, as a reflection of their souls. It is through this beginning that Godard composes an atonal essay, arrhythmic, with scenes or little clips, intervened in color, format or duration, clips from Cocteau, Epstein, Jacques Perconte, Nicholas Ray, Pasolini, or Van Sant, Hitchcock, or Browning. And specially, he employs different sound layers, or a sound panning that allows the film to overtake the entire room, like if it was a being that wants to penetrate consciences, or insert some reflections extracted from Rimbaud, Baudelaire, or Malraux.
In Le Livre d’Image, Godard not only elaborates an essay on image and words about the inevitable repetition (as a key concept) and the role of memory in that matter, but he also gives an outstanding offer about materiality of cinema from the digital format, which dilates or exorcises it.