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Do you still remember how, long ago, we trained our thoughts? Most often we'd start from a dream. We wondered how, in total darkness, colours of such intensity could emerge within us. In a soft, low voice. Saying great things. Surprising, deep and accurate matters. Image and words. Like a bad dream written on a stormy night. Under western eyes. The lost paradises. War is here.
For years Jean-Luc Godard has been reducing his cinema to increasingly symbolic and minimalist layers. If in the 70s and 80s, his work already called attention to an "absence of script", which in fact was a text with broad lines that played for the improvisation on the scene in the following decades until the work of the actors began to be kept to a minimum.
His films today are like collages of history and reflections on the subjects to which he have more interest: history and cinema. And the parallelism that one has with the other.
The prolific director's newest work, "The Image Book" is the apex of his cinema of symbolism and collage. There are no actors. At most Godard's cavernous voice, today with 88, narrating the film is making reflections on the twentieth century, the new century, humanity, society, and, of course, the cinema.
For Godard, cinema is the book of images of the twentieth century. Just as the Bible, the Koran and other religious texts are the basis for life in society and tell the story within their respective religions, cinema is the documentation of the history of modernity and contemporaneity.
Through "The Image Book" Godard invites us to reflect on history. And it builds a journey through the twentieth century in an incessant collage of images and sounds that permeate the history of art in its most different forms. All divided into five acts, as five are the fingers of the hands, as five are the senses. Five is a number that runs through the entire film, as well as the metaphor around the hands and their symbolic meanings in each attitude.
It is through this metaphor of the hands that Godard draws attention to a history constructed by the signs of body language. They are the hands used for love, but they also bring disappointment in the first act, the hands used for the violence of the second act or the hands that legitimize the use of force by the spirit of the laws of the fourth act.
The first part of the film is a set of reflections of what Godard had already somehow talked about in other works like "Film Socialism" (2010) or "Forever Mozart" (1996).
The last part is that it brings a Godard with a look at the Middle East rarely, or perhaps never before, shown so deeply. From a play on words stating that "Sheherazade would have told a different story in 1001 days," and not nights like the traditional story, Godard displays the bankruptcy of the west's gaze over the east.
For him, we see the Orient as a unique cultural mass, and not as if each country had its own culture and worldview. In the same way that we look to the east as the mirror of what we are not. And this is reflected in the way the cinema portrays the Orient. It is when the hands arise in delicate movements, painted with symbols that we do not understand or hold tightly the Koran in his prayer.
In a more controversial moment, Godard supports the bomb. Appeals to the positive side of the bomb. The bomb, he sees, is the revolution as it once was in Europe. It is the reaction of the oppressed. It is difficult to support this in times when Europe suffers so much from terrorist attacks. But it is possible to understand Godard's side by trying to show this as reaction rather than action. Hence the parallel with revolutionary movements.
Godard is a genius. Often misunderstood, often seen as annoying and difficult to understand. But his film remains alive, thought-provoking and pleasurable for those who accept the challenge of trying to decipher it with each job.
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