The Image Book

A Film by Godard about Godard… For Godard ?

Film. Awarded with a special Palme d’Or during 2018 Cannes Festival,
The Image Book directed by Jean-Luc Godard shows us Godard’s different faces,
which created the character he is today.
Here’s our user manual.

By Quentin Moyon

Reading time 4 min.

The Film-lover
The film starts presenting what true film-lover Jean-Luc Godard was in his youth. We almost forgot that before he was a director, Godard came into the world of images through the world of writings. Critic for Cahiers du Cinéma with his friends the “young Turkish” François Truffaut, Eric Rohmer or Jacques Rivette. In this respect, The Image Book is a real exercice of quoting, of reference, and even of self-reference: for example we can notice some extracts from his films The Carabineers (1963) et Band of Outsiders (1964).

It’s a sort of deconstruction of the idea
of cinema: we go from collective art
to a lonely film…

The activist
Then the film puts the activist Godard forward. Quoting Montesquieu’s Spirit of the Laws, implicitly referring to the scapegoat’s concept theorized by the philosopher René Girard, explicitly referring to the complex social context as well as the confrontation between rich and poor people, he makes us discovering again the acitvism he defended in a large part of his filmography, as in la Chinoise (1967) or in the films he signed with the group Dziga Vertov after 68 (Vent d’Est, Lutte en Italie…).

The theoretician

Then, the film shows us the theoretician and experimenter interested in Words and Image. This creativity filled his cinema right from the start with Vivre sa Vie (and his famous shot from the back) until his work on 3D in 3x3D made with Edgar Pêra and Peter Greenaway in 2014. The exercise seems to be a deconstruction (according to the philosopher Jacques Derrida’s method). The film builds its sense so as to open new trails of reflection and thought.

The agitator

The director’s portray is complete because he also shows us the two main things that define hilm: irony and provocation. For example when he refers to the concept of  « Montage Interdit » (which could be translated this way: “forbidden editing“) of André Bazin the founder of Cahiers du Cinéma, through the apparition of the famous text of the critic. Whereas The Image Book is entirely made of editing, whether it’s video or audio, supporting the answer written by Godard in his text “Montage mon beau souci”. The film finally turns out to be a pure attempt to open up a dialogue between Images and Words, and it’s successful.

The lone wolf

The film is in line with the cinema Godard has been producing these past few years, like Histoires du Cinéma, Film Socialisme or Adieu au Langage, which he explicitly quotes speaking about “death of language“. His cinema is full of testings, apparently disjointed but in fact it feeds on a real and deep logic.

But after all The Image Book highlights the deconstructionof the idea itself of cinema: we go from collective art to a lonely film… Loneliness which now seems to be the trademark of Godard’s artistic work (he even attends his press conferences and award ceremonies via webcam, see Khan Khanne) A loneliness that even makes us wonder if the film is made by Godard for himself. Because whether we like his film or not, Godard doesn’t care and he says with irony: “it’s not a fair image it’s just an image“.

To watch on Arte: 

  • Cinema
  • Cult
  • Godard
  • Arte

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