Film Review: The Image Book

When it comes to grumpy old men, there are few who can claim to be in the same league as the famed Gallic curmudgeon Jean-Luc Godard. The French auteur has been grinding his teeth about cinema for decades now despite being one of the country’s most famous film aficionados. Films are apparently dead, yet he still keeps on making them. His latest creation, The Image Book, is arguably his most contrary yet.

In The Image Book, Godard (literally, as he rasps through the voiceover) bemoans the vacuous and disposable modern world. However, his focus is on the role that cinema has to play in the wider context of society. Particularly its effect on the Arab world. Adopting his familiar modern style of the film essay, he’s created a lustrous and challenging diatribe on the way we consume. One which not only asks many questions about our culpability but surprisingly also offers a sliver of hope.

As with his last two films, Goodbye to Language and Film socialisme, The Image Book is not a film which will appeal to everyone. As Godard pieces together the fragments of his story, some of the footage is visually or emotionally difficult and arresting. He’s not imparting an easy lesson or sugar-coating his message. Despite his august years, The Image Book demonstrates that there’s still fire in the belly of one of cinema’s most controversial figures.

The Image Book is in cinemas for one day only on 2 December. It then streams on MUBI from 3 December.

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