CREDIT: Kino Lorber

Director: Jean-Luc Godard

Running Time: 84 Minutes

Rating: Unrated, But I Would Peg it at PG-13, Mostly Because I Don’t Think Young Kids Would Know What to Make of It

Release Date: January 25, 2019 (New York)/February 15, 2019 (Los Angeles)

At 88 years old, Jean-Luc Godard is still hard at work redefining what constitutes a film. His latest experiment is The Image Book, which can prosaically be described as an avant-garde cinematic essay that ties together various pre-existing films, paintings, and some original footage into one feature-length montage. But a more truth-seeking, poetic way to put it is that this is probably Godard’s attempt to capture his dreams on screen. That’s probably what he’s been doing his whole career, really. I think that’s what most, if not all, directors are doing, in fact. Godard is just more conscious about it than most. The question now is: was it worth it for Godard to share this particular dream with us? I certainly won’t complain about the time I spent watching it, but I doubt that it will have much of a lasting imprint on my subconscious, or my waking life for that matter.

One of the most useful pieces of film criticism I have ever heard (courtesy of Roger Ebert, I think) is that a good film teaches you how to watch it. With something as nontraditional as The Image Book, one would very much hope that is the case. But unfortunately, it is not successful, or at least the lesson did not take with me. Maybe Godard had a very clear purpose in mind when assembling his pieces, but it did not hit me with an overall strong punch. There is a mix of disorientation, cleverness, and inscrutability to the whole montage. The volume spikes up and down, or drops out entirely, and the cuts between various footage make perfect sense or no sense at all. I can imagine that it is pretty much the same experience whether you pay perfectly close attention or slip in and out, but it’s fun enough if you know what you’re getting into.

The Image Book is Recommended If You Like: Koyaanisqatsi, maybe?, Godard Completism

Grade: 3 out of 5 Trains