At 88, Jean-Luc Godard is still willing to reinvent cinema. Your new movie, The picture book, has just been presented at the Rotterdam Festival, an auspicious contest for experimental cinema since its creation in 1972. But the projections do not take place in a conventional movie theater, but in a room in the Hotel Atlanta, one of the few buildings in the center that were not destroyed in the German bombing of 1940 that devastated the Dutch city. Each of the three daily sessions of the film has capacity for only 30 people. "It's not a movie designed for the big screen. It was conceived to be seen in privacy, "explains Fabrice Aragno, the filmmaker's right-hand man, who The picture book He works as a producer, editor and director of photography.
The film will be seen in cinemas in some countries, such as the United States, where it premiered last Friday in New York, or Spain, where it will arrive on February 22 to a limited number of cinemas. "Each distributor is free to do what they want, but Jean-Luc wanted it to be a chamber film," says Aragno next to the room set up for the screenings in Rotterdam. Decorated with old Persian armchairs and rugs, it reproduces the ambience of the studio that Godard has in his house, in the Swiss town of Rolle, where the assembly of this singular project was made. "It's a way of showing the film in the context in which it was made. It's like seeing a picture of a painter hanging in his workshop, "says Aragno.
For Godard, originality consists of returning to the origin. "It's not a revolutionary idea. The Lumière brothers' films were already seen in cafes and public places, and not in movie theaters in front of a bucket of popcorn, "says the producer, opposed to those" neutral and anodyne spaces that are equal to an overproduction and a movie How is it going". Instead, Godard's new work will be seen, in this same format, in a Paris theater, a Hong Kong foundation, a Swiss library and a Brussels museum before the end of 2019.
When the lights go out, a collage made of movie fragments, television images and viral Internet videos. This film essay – lucid but only half intelligible, like the oracles of other times – is a concentrate of crushed images in which they fit from an old Joan Crawford film to the news of a channel 24 hours, from Vertigo and Pasolini until the propaganda of Isis. Accompanied by the trembling narrative of the director himself, who recites a long series of aphorisms, is another encyclopedic endeavor in the style of his mythical History (s) of cinema, which he completed in four episodes between 1988 and 1998. Among the infinity of ideas per second contained in the film, his discourse on the representation of the Arab world stands out, which seems framed in the theory of Orientalism formulated by Edward Saïd.
"The critics are limited to identifying the films, but it is not about recognizing the sources, but about looking for a relationship between them," says Nicole Brenez, professor at the Sorbonne Nouvelle and a great specialist in experimental film, whom Godard recruited for the project as a co-producer Brenez also sees in The picture book "A rebirth movie" after the heart attack suffered by Godard in 2015. "One of the provisional titles of the film was, precisely, Renaissance. It is a personal resurgence after having faced death, "said Brenez during a masterclass in Rotterdam.
The film had its world premiere last May at the Cannes Film Festival, where it was premiered in the large Lumière auditorium, the main hall of the event with a capacity for 2,300 spectators. But it was an accident that ended there. "When the film was selected by Cannes, Godard said no. His original idea was that it should only be seen in this small format, "reveals Aragno. "He changed his mind when we withdrew funding from the Swiss Federal Council. He thought that being in Cannes would have him reconsidered. " And he was not wrong: hours later, the government office that grants the grants gave him the 50,000 euros needed to complete it.
Politically, it was untenable that a film of Swiss nationality presented at Cannes had no public funding. "But I do not forget that, just a few days before, they had told us that this was not cinema, that they did not understand anything and that it was not going to interest the public," he explains. Aragno. The film ended with a special Golden Palm, the first in the history of the contest, which Godard proudly exhibits at the beginning of the film. The president of the jury, Cate Blanchett, defined it as a film "out of time and space". It is logical that a work so abstruse and great does not end in a multiplex.