Redoubtable: The soap bubbles of the Revolution
by Fabien Lemercier
- CANNES 2017: Michel Hazanavicius has made an extremely inventive, well-honed and off-the-wall film about a crisis-ridden Jean-Luc Godard, as seen through the eyes of his partner
“Stop telling me I’m Jean-Luc Godard. I’m not Jean-Luc Godard. I’m only pretending; I’m an actor playing Jean-Luc Godard.” When one attempts to paint the portrait of a myth, particularly when one is a filmmaker trying to depict the multifaceted and complex figure who was the paradoxical standard bearer of the French New Wave, and who later became the master of putting up smokescreens and making subliminal connections, it’s vastly preferable to distance oneself, rather than attack the commander-in-chief (or, to his detractors, the reclusive, incomprehensible oracle) head on. But the agile Michel Hazanavicius has chosen to use a more roundabout, cheerful and playful way to do just that with Redoubtable [+see also:
Q&A: Michel Hazanavicius
film profile], which has been revealed in competition at the 70th Cannes Film Festival.
However, what could have veered towards an exquisite, bizarre, supremely inventive cinematic oddity that is nevertheless fairly low-key in the grand Cannes landscape, given that the Oscar-winning director of The Artist [+see also:
interview: Michel Hazanavicius
film profile] is so adept at reconstructing and taking pleasure in playing with atmospheres, is not at all, thanks to his initial decision to adapt the novel Un an après by Anne Wiazemsky, who shared Godard’s life from 1967-1970. The film’s point of view is therefore the simultaneously lovestruck and lucid gaze that this young Philosophy student turns towards her illustrious partner, which allows the movie to sketch out the myriad facets of a glamorised creator in the midst of crisis and, at the same time, a simple man in a relationship. And its success is made all the sweeter by the "soap bubble" style (in the proper, joyful sense of the term) of the mise-en-scène, which alleviates all of the weighty seriousness that a more conventional approach would have entailed. And this is precisely how Hazanavicus manages to make his gamble of offering a Godard-like freedom to the whole pay off – in other words, it’s the best way to pay an offbeat, affectionate and caustic tribute to such an emblematic figure in the history of cinema.
“All artists should die aged 33, before they become old farts. And I was about to turn 37.” As the film kicks off, Godard (played by Louis Garrel, a perfect fit for the role) has just shot La Chinoise and moved in with 19-year-old Anne (the excellent Stacy Martin), whom he is about to marry. Revolutionary by nature and displaying a serenity that is but skin deep, the renowned filmmaker is interested only "in what other people don’t do" and forms a very contrasting couple with his partner, who prefers nudity and life’s little pleasures to the ideological and existential complexities that soon make Godard’s blood boil with the events of May 1968. This radicalisation on every level (demonstrations at the Cannes Film Festival, via heated general meetings in the Sorbonne and a clear spike in the aggressiveness of the filmmaker’s character, who is obsessed with constantly taking an opposing view) will at one point be overcome by requited love...
Completely unbridled in terms of creativity, and teeming with a plethora of great ideas that are clear for all to see, all the while maintaining a firm grip on the rudder, Redoubtable is an extremely charming film. It also demonstrates to the sceptical not only that Michel Hazanavicius is an ultra-gifted craftsman revisiting the classics, whom certain people would like to confine to this role, but that he is also an artist with a very personal brand of finesse and is an expert in double-talk.
(Translated from French)
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