Jean-Luc Godard showed he is still the great disrupter on Saturday by turning a Cannes Film Festival news conference into what one critic called “a weird cinematic event”.
The morning after the premiere of his abstract film “The Image Book”, the 87-year-old appeared on a mobile phone screen, taking questions on everything from geopolitics and the future of cinema to the films of “Transformers” director Michael Bay.
Reporters excitedly lined up to FaceTime with the French-Swiss filmmaker – one greeting him as a “living legend” – seeking clues to the meaning of the film described by Variety as a “color-saturated semiotic channel-surfing kaleidoscope”.
Peering over black-framed spectacles under a wisp of white hair, Godard said:
“Cinema shouldn’t be showing what’s happening, what you see every day on Facebook, but what’s not happening and what you’ll never see on Facebook.”
Asked about his long-held view that films should not follow a conventional narrative arc, he replied:
“If I said that phrase back then, quite some time ago, it was in a way to counter the Spielbergs and that lot who said a story had to have a beginning, a middle and an end, and so, as a joke, I said: ‘not in that order’.”
“The Image Book” breaks more cinematic conventions than that. With no actors and no actual filming, it relies entirely on clips from other films, stills, news footage and even Islamic State online videos, with a soundtrack often at odds with the images.
Variety called it “a free-associational mode of sound-and-image collage that suggests MTV crossed with the Beatles’ ‘Revolution 9’. He’s no longer a cracked storyteller — he’s an audio-visual poet.”
As a scrum of reporters crowded round the iPhone from which Godard was speaking, Daily Telegraph critic Robbie Collin tweeted: “This is wild”.
“It’s the most exciting press conference I have been at, I think. Cannes isn’t known for its revelatory press conferences but that felt like a weird cinematic event in itself,” Collin told Reuters.
“What remains fascinating about Godard and his work, is that is he is the only director in competition so far, possibly the only one in the entire festival, whose films defy being chewed over in the course of a tweet or a thread of tweets.”
“The Image Book” is one of 21 films in competition for the Palme d’Or at the festival which ends on May 19.