Paris, 1967. Jean-Luc Godard, the maker of “A bout de souffle”, “Le Mépris” and “Pierrot le fou”, idolized by critics and intellectuals, is shifting from revolutionizing cinema to becoming a revolutionary tout court. Isn’t he shooting “La Chinoise”, more a political tract in favor of Maoism than an actual movie? His female star is Anne Wiazemsky, writer François Mauriac’s granddaughter, sixteen years his junior.
Anne and Jean-Luc have been dating since 1966 and they marry this very year. She admires Jean-Luc’s originality, intelligence, wit and boldness while he loves Anne’s freshness and – admiration of him. But May 1968 puts their marriage to the test. Godard, who is more and more involved in the revolution, indeed becomes less and less available to his young wife, which does not prevent him from acting jealous. It also looks as if the genius is losing his sense of humor.
Redoubtable (French: Le Redoutable) is a 2017 French biographical comedy-drama film written and directed by Michel Hazanavicius about the affair of revered filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard with Anne Wiazemsky in the late-1960s. It was selected to compete for the Palme d’Or in the main competition section at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival.
Film Review for Redoutable
ichel Hazanavicius’s Redoubtable is a reasonably funny, moderately interesting movie, wearing its sprightly colourful pastiche like dry-cleaned retro couture. It is about Jean-Luc Godard – amusingly played by Louis Garrel – and his mic-drop moment in the late 60s. Nettled at the accusation that his cinema is selling out and neglecting the revolution promised by the Paris événements of 1968, and that he himself is becoming middle-aged and irrelevant, Godard rejects the French industry that had lionised him as a global celebrity and finally goes on a political and artistic journey way upriver, experimenting with communal cinema and radical film-making.
He also painfully breaks with his beautiful young wife Anne Wiazemsky, played by Stacy Martin, whose memoir One Year Later has been adapted by Hazanavicius for the film. Their marriage is happy at first; they share a joke that they are like the brave crew of the French nuclear submarine, the Redoubtable, which they heard about on the radio. But Godard – increasingly boorish, jealous and nihilist – begins to resent Anne taking acting jobs and spending time away from him on location, in an industry he comes to detest.
This movie simply takes it as read that a film about Jean-Luc Godard cannot function without Godardian pastiche and Godardian in-jokes. So there are many visual and stylistic homages to the great man: quirky slogan-ish intertitles, distancing tricks, 60s furniture, jazz, advertising, and entranced shots of a woman’s naked body: the references particularly seem derived from Le Mepris with its enumeration of Bardot’s naked loveliness. Oddly, there are also references to Woody Allen – gags based on Annie Hall and Stardust Memories – perhaps on the basis that Allen acted in Godard’s King Lear, or perhaps because a quasi-Woody gag is more likely to get a laugh.
All these touches are cleverly managed: sometimes funny, sometimes tiresome in an authentic way. Hazanavicius showed himself to be a master of pastiche, after all in his Oscar-winning silent movie, The Artist. But couldn’t Hazanavicius do without the quasi-Godard flavourings? How about making a Godard film entirely without them? It sometimes looks as if Hazanavicius is trying to clone a Godard film in a more commercially accessible remastered style, like Soderbergh’s remake of Solaris. And the jokey pastiche, however lovingly intended, inevitably comes at the expense of passion, and it declines to take seriously the issue of Godard’s inner life and subject of marriage and love.
Well, Garrel and Martin certainly do make a delectable couple and there are some nice scenes. Repeatedly caught up in demos, he keeps on breaking his glasses: Hazanavicius slyly shows that whatever disasters overtake these specs, he seems to have a pair of super-cool dark glasses for watching films in a dark movie theatre.
Hazanavicius is also pretty unsparing and unsentimental about the ugly, charmless and narcissistic side to Godard. Desperate to out-radical the students who might mock him, the posturing Godard raises the issue of Palestine at a packed meeting and declaims that “Jews are the new Nazis”: a fatuous shock-tactic which is received in icy silence.
And yet despite the unravelling of Godard’s public career and reputation, his relationship with Anne seems vital – almost. There is a clever scene where they have a whispered argument in the cinema and their conversation seems to come from the agonised mouths of Maria Falconetti and Antonin Artaud in The Passion of Joan of Arc.
It is a movie crowded with incident and debate – although oddly the famous disruption of the 1968 Cannes film festival is not shown onscreen, but only listened to on the radio. And there is a kind of fidelity to how purely insufferable Godard must have been, as well as how stylish and charismatic he was. But you had to be there, perhaps, and this movie doesn’t exactly put you there; rather, it places you inside an elaborately fabricated time capsule.
Godard himself has called this a “stupid, stupid idea” for a movie – perhaps because it behaves as if he is already dead. But he is still alive, still making acclaimed pictures. Maybe it would have been more interesting to let Godard himself make his own version of his ex-wife’s book. If that is what he felt like doing.
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Directed by: Michel Hazanavicius
Starring: Louis Garrel, Stacy Martin, Bérénice Bejo, Micha Lescot, Grégory Gadebois, Félix Kysyl, Arthur Orcier, Marc Fraize, Romain Goupil, Jean-Pierre Mocky, Guido Caprino, Emmanuele Aita
Screenplay by: Michel Hazanavicius
Production Design by: Christian Marti
Cinematography by: Guillaume Schiffman
Film Editing by: Anne-Sophie Bion, Michel Hazanavicius
Costume Design by: Sabrina Riccardi
Set Decoration by: Suzanne Arhex
Distributed by: StudioCanal
Release Date: Epril 27, 2018