A new Jean-Luc Godard film is always a cause for celebration, and today will bring the first reviews of his latest, The Image Book, which just screened for members of the press hours ago at the Cannes Film Festival. (Godard fans will note that this month marks the 50th anniversary of the time the indefatigable French New Wave filmmaker and his colleagues successfully hijacked a screening and shut down the festival as a form of activism; this year’s Cannes advertising campaign is awkwardly themed around one of Godard’s most popular works, Pierrot le Fou.) Will The Image Book get booed at Cannes, as some of the most famous films have been?
While we wait for those first reactions, some exciting news has been announced: Variety reports that Godard will create an exhibition version of The Image Book, and it will travel to venues in Paris, Madrid, New York, and Singapore. (The Reina Sofía Museum in the Spanish capital and the National Gallery in Singapore are among the venues in talks to host it.)
This is not the first time Godard has set his sights on the art world. In 2006, Paris’s Centre Pompidou hosted the biggest Godard exhibition to date, which included a complete retrospective of his films. That show has become a source of fascination for Godard fans due to its complicated backstory. When the museum first approached Godard, the filmmaker wanted to mount a massive installation called Collage(s) de France, which would have explored the full history of cinema, albeit in a non-chronological and, for lack of a better word, very Godardian way. Relations between Godard and museum officials gradually disintegrated, and the installation was never completed. Eighteen maquettes made in preparation for the work were recently exhibited at Miguel Abreu Gallery in New York, and they were beauties.
What, exactly, the exhibition version of The Image Book will look like remains a mystery. The Variety report notes that the exhibition will be spread across 500 to 600 square meters, or somewhere between 5,400 and 6,500 square feet, of space. The film’s plot, if it has one at all, is likewise unknown. Godard originally said that The Image Book would be set “in various Arab countries, including Tunisia,” and it would explore conflict in the Middle East. But a cryptic trailer for the film included merely a list of works and authors that the film will allude to, among them Edward Said, Dziga Vertov, Godard’s own 1963 film Le Petit Soldat, and the Michael Bay movie 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (2016), along with words like “TABLEAUX” and “PICTURES” superimposed over it. As something of a deliberately ambiguous clue, a producer for the film said the exhibition could be compared to Pablo Picasso’s Guernica (1937).