Le Livre d’image: Godard sustains the suspense

Film still of Le Livre d'image (The Image Book) © RR

Introducing the Official Selection's eldest participant in Competition. At the grand old age of 87, Jean-Luc Godard has remained as active and innovative as ever, rejecting digital techniques while experimenting with new cinematographic forms. This year, he brings us the enigmatic Le Livre d’image (The Image Book).

In this latest offering, Jean-Luc Godard brings us a most unconventional film, described by Thierry Frémaux as being "similar to his cinematographic essays". Drawing on images sourced from documentaries and fiction, the director piques audiences' curiosity with what promises to be a meditation on the Arab world, with a sense of mystery that is palpable as soon as the trailer starts.

In 2014, his Adieu au Langage (Goodbye to Language) had already captured the Festival's collective imagination before even being screened. The film won him the Jury Prize (in a tie with Mommy by Xavier Dolan) but more significantly than the prize itself, the form was the most striking aspect of this masterpiece. At the age of 83, he had produced a 3D film, an eccentric, contemplative and poetic enterprise on the shores of Lake Geneva. The film inspired admiration as well as irritation in critics, exacerbated by the director's absence.

Jean-Luc Godard's inclusion on the list this year is of particular relevance, firstly because the poster for this 71st edition of the Festival is a tribute to his Pierrot le Fou (1965). And secondly, because fifty years after May '68, the Festival is opening its doors to one of its naysayers, a director who once called for the Festival to be discontinued, and who railed against a film industry he perceived as being disconnected from reality.

Yet his relationship with Cannes was quick to flourish, and fourteen of Godard's films have been presented here since. In 2010, when his Film Socialisme (Freedom is Costly) was selected for Un Certain Regard, the director was unwell and excused his absence, explaining: "I will accompany the Festival to death, but not one step further." As full of passion as ever.