The Image Book is a work that reprises many of Jean-Luc Godard’s familiar ideas, but with an unexpected urgency and visceral strangeness. It’s an essay film with the body-language of a horror movie, avowedly taking Godard’s traditional concerns with the ethical status of cinema and history and looking to the Arab world and indirectly examining our orientalism […].
The Image Book is the signature Godard irony-mosaic of clips and fragments, with sloganised, gnomic texts, puns in brackets, sudden fades-to-black, unpredictable, unsynchronised sound cues which appear to have been edited quite without the usual concern for aural seamlesness, and vast, declamatory orchestral chords.
In The Image Book he appears to gesture, again, at the subject of cinema’s culpable failure to witness the horrors of the modern world, failure to account for Auschwitz and Hiroshima. […]. This is, I think, still at the heart of Godard’s view and at the heart of the title here. What is the status of the image? Is it text? If it is a sign then what is its real-world referent? Just another sign?
It is bewildering. I’m not sure I understood more than a fraction and of course it can be dismissed as obscurantism and mannerism. But I found The Image Book rich, disturbing and strange.
Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian