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.
To be brief: With regard to Jean-Luc Godard's later work, what you get out of it depends entirely on what you bring to it and expect from it. "Goodbye to Language" nauseates me; I think it's unbearably pretentious, poorly constructed, and struggling for meaning. But I had some modicum of fun with "The Image Book." Granted, it's still montages layered on montages on montages, so it's dense, but it's still good, academic fun.
Nowhere else but in late-era Godard can you find a reference to the beautiful Golden Gate Bridge scene from "Vertigo" moments after a shocking ISIS execution video. Godard lost none of his edge as a filmmaker, for better and for worse, and "The Image Book" proves he's retained his ability to shock and inspire audiences.
The editing and voiceover are precise and hyperaware, with more wit and levity than "Goodbye to Language" brought, and the references are deeper-cut as well. I enjoyed the throwaway cut to "Kiss Me Deadly" as much as I loved his allusion to Buster Keaton. But at the end of the day, Godard's latest is simply too abstract, too formless, too high-brow to recommend to anybody. As much fun as I had, it went on for too long and had more non-endings than "Return of the King." There's a solid four or five minutes of film after the credits, as if Godard is begging us to leave the theater as he's laughing in our faces.
But if you approach "Goodbye to Language" not only prepared but enthusiastic about what the director has to offer next, as I know many people were, you may well walk out of "The Image Book" claiming it's a masterpiece.
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