At 88 years old with nearly 60 years in the film industry, Jean-Luc Godard remains at the cutting-edge of cinema. His newest film, "The Image Book," or "Le Livre d'image," was the first film to ever receive a Special Palme d'O' at Cannes 2018. Duke students will be able to see the film a full two weeks before its American opening on Jan. 25 in New York City with Screen/Society hosting showings Thursday and Friday at 7 p.m. at the Rubenstein Arts Center.
Organized by the Arts of the Moving Image Program, Screen/Society is a curated film exhibition series open to the Triangle community. The showings range from new releases to restorations and retrospectives, and often feature introductions or Q&A discussions with filmmakers and Duke scholars. "The Image Book" fits well into Screen/Society's program due to its thought-provoking subject matter and representation of a master filmmaker's changing style.
Godard is unique in continuing to change his style over the course of his career, said Jason Sudak, assistant programmer for Screen/Society.
"His youthful Nouvelle Vague (New Wave) films of the 1960s redefined what narrative cinema could look like," he said. "His move away from narrative cinema in the 1970s put the political stakes of filmmaking into sharp relief. His films from the 1980s-on have been something else altogether, making use of new video technologies to push cinema to its outer limits."
Described by critics as an essay horror film, "The Image Book" is a kaleidoscope of new filming as well as received images, sounds and texts. Just as how Godard's "Histoire(s) du cinéma" of the 1980s and 1990s used cinematic collage to question the relationship between film and the 20th century, "The Image Book" uses montage to acknowledge cinema's shortcomings in recognizing the atrocities of the 20th and 21st centuries. Godard explores the ethical underpinnings of cinema, specifically the Western gaze through which images of Arab world are consumed. The overload of imagery is disturbing and disorienting, but produces rich and illuminating associations about the state of the world. Although the film has no actors, Godard narrates along with the powerful soundtrack.
"I'm really looking forward to listening to the film this weekend," Sudak said. "'The Image Book' deploys 7.1 surround sound, a first for Godard, and the film's sound mix is dazzling, visceral and wholly unique. It's a rare film that makes us think with our ears and our eyes equally."
"The Image Book" will be introduced by Professor Anne-Gaëlle Saliot, who teaches a seminar on Godard every other year and is currently writing a book about Godard, Jacques Rivette, François Truffaut and the 19th century entitled "Against the Grain." She believes Godard has challenged the practice and understanding of cinema like no other, inspiring a range of global directors including Wim Wenders, Martin Scorsese, George Lucas, Coppola, de Palma, Quentin Tarantino, Glauber Rocha, Wong Kar-Wai and Jia Zhangke. Yet the director’s later works haven’t been given as much attention as his earlier New Wave material.
“There is a fascinating paradox at the core of Godard’s fame," Saliot said. "Godard, or even God’Art as the famous pun used to run, is at once universally recognizable as an icon forever ensconced in the 1960s, and totally unknown inasmuch as very few people actually watch his films, even though everybody might know the name."
With its state-of-the art audio and visual capabilities, the Rubenstein Arts Center will provide an intimate experience of Godard's powerful film.
"The Spring 2019 screening season marks a milestone for us in a number of ways, including the fact that it is the first semester in which all of our screenings will take place in the Rubenstein Arts Center’s film theater. It is also the first time we will not be showing any DVDs or Blu-Rays – instead showing all the films in their best available DCP, 35mm, 16mm or archival digital formats," said Hank Okazaki, programmer for Screen/Society.
The upcoming season will feature two nights of Lee Chang-dong's celebrated thriller, "Burning," as well as Alice Rohrwacher's "Happy as Lazzaro." Screen/Society will also show "Jurassic Park" in January, as well as "The Simpsons Movie" in 35mm in February. Covering six decades of cinema and many genres of film, this season of Screen/Society has found a momentous opener in "The Image Book."
"The new Godard film' has always been an event, going on almost sixty years now," said Sudak. Now that Godard is 88 years old, we can't take it for granted that there will be more."
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