The Image Book trailer

Iconic filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard, a figurehead of the French New Wave movement which pushed the envelope of cinematic storytelling methods back in the 1960s, has spent much of his career experimenting with form. That experimentation continues in the 88-year-old’s latest cinematic effort, The Image Book, which played at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. The trailer has arrived, and I can say without hesitation that it’s unlike any trailer you’ve ever seen.

The Image Book Trailer

I admittedly haven’t been keeping up with Godard’s recent directorial output, but this trailer (via The Playlist) is mesmerizing. Siddhant Adlakha reviewed this film for us from the Mumbai Film Festival last month, and I’d highly encourage you all to take a few minutes to read his review. But for those short on time, I’ll pull out a quick excerpt:

The Image Book, more frenzied video-essay than traditional narrative, functions much as Breathless once did, albeit in a radically changed environment. Take, for a moment, the snaking long-shots and the jarring jump-cuts that Godard helped popularize; they’ve gone from the radical new cinematic slang of the era to something easily recognizable. Something used, and understood, with far too much ease. It’s that ease of the image, the comfort with which we as filmmakers — all of us, who carry around digital cameras in our pockets — wield this now blunt weapon that Godard seems to eulogize. In the first half of The Image Book, he presents us with a disorienting non-narrative, composed of harsh sounds and images including clips from all your favourite classics, manipulated to the point of nausea, dropping frames (if not dropping the image entirely) and sanding pictures down to the point of simply being ideas. In the process, he demolishes the cinematic lingua franca we now instinctively understand, replacing it with something grotesque, and yet, something entirely necessary.

If you have an appetite for unconventional cinema, The Image Book should absolutely be on your radar. It arrives in theaters on January 25, 2019. This film defies the traditional synopsis, so distributor Kino Lorber instead provided this description from Piers Handling, the CEO/Director of the Toronto International Film Festival:

The legendary Jean-Luc Godard adds to his influential, iconoclastic legacy with this provocative collage film essay, a vast ontological inquiry into the history of the moving image and a commentary on the contemporary world. Winner of the first Special Palme d’Or to be awarded in the history of the Cannes Film Festival, The Image Book is another extraordinary addition to the French master’s vast filmography.

Displaying an encyclopedic grasp of cinema and its history, Godard pieces together fragments and clips them from some of the greatest films of the past, then digitally alters, bleaches, and washes them, all in the service of reflecting on what he sees in front of him and what he makes of the dissonance that surrounds him. He uses his own voice, reminiscent of those of Leonard Cohen or Bob Dylan in the twilights of their careers, to guide us through the fascinating labyrinth of his mind. In some cases, it is to reflect on the metaphysical properties of the world — time, and space, and where meaning is found — but more importantly it is the image, the thing that has obsessed Godard for his entire career, that anchors this film. His ontological enquiry into the image continues to be one of the most moving in history.

But, as always with Godard, the key issues he raises have to do with the legacy of the last century and its horrors: the incomprehension of Hiroshima and Auschwitz, events that coincided with cinema but which have somehow eluded its gaze. And, movingly, The Image Book also reflects on orientalism and the Arab world, grounding the new film very much in the present.

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