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"It's a blend of respectful tribute and irreverence"

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Michel Hazanavicius • Director

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- CANNES 2017: French filmmaker Michel Hazanavicius discusses the story behind Redoubtable, which had its world premiere in competition at Cannes

Michel Hazanavicius  • Director
(© G Pimentel / Getty Images / Festival de Cannes)

Flanked by actors Louis GarrelStacy Martin and Bérénice Bejo, as well as his production partner Florence Gastaud, French filmmaker Michel Hazanavicius talked to the international press to break down Redoubtable [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
Q&A: Michel Hazanavicius
film profile
]
, an off-the-wall, well-honed and highly inventive film about a crisis-ridden Jean-Luc Godard as seen through the eyes of his partner, which was unveiled in competition at the 70th Cannes Film Festival.

It would seem that, initially, Anne Wiazemsky didn’t want to give you the rights to her novel Un an après, which you adapted for Redoubtable. What happened, exactly?
Michel Hazanavicius: When I came across the book pretty much by chance and saw the chance to make a film of it, I got in contact with her and phoned her up. But she didn’t think a film was feasible, and we were about to leave the conversation there when I told her: “Your book is still really funny, though, it’s hilarious.” She replied, “I think so too, but you’re the first person to find it funny.” Then we talked some more and she decided to put her faith in me. And she also told me: "I really like the idea that you came from another planet."

The film has two different voices, that of the man and that of the woman, and it’s simultaneously a love story and the fight for survival of this artist in the midst of an ideological crisis. Which one is the main character for you?
That question came up right from the writing stage. The story is recounted by Anne, so she is the main character, but at the same time, she is 20 years old; she is an observer and someone in love, and the movie depicts the breakdown of this love. But this man is so full on that he becomes the main character. She is the fixed reference point, while he is a man adrift, and the film tells the story of how he strays from his fixed reference point. The movie is about the emancipation of a young woman, but as she’s in a relationship, that resonates with this artist, who sacrifices his idols, then his friends, then his relationship, and lastly himself. The story is built around this double movement. But generally, I think the real Jean-Luc Godard is the protagonist and the antagonist himself. That’s what instils empathy because he’s not malicious, he’s not destructive to others, but rather to himself.

How did you manage to depict the spectacular protests from the events of May 1968? Did you use any special effects?
Together with Florence Gastaud, we decided to set aside a large part of the budget to depict May 1968. There’s a little bit of special effects because we didn’t have 100,000 extras, but we did have an awful lot of them. I was also keen to shoot in the real streets in Paris where the demonstrations actually took place. Because given that the movie relies heavily on displacement, mockery and detachment, I wanted a very solid base for the political and ideological aspects of the film.

Is Redoubtable both a satire and a tribute?
Yes, you could say that. On one hand there’s the deviant side, and the film pays tribute to Godard’s movies of the 1960s, both in terms of their form and the topics they addressed. At the same time, it’s aloof and ironic, but Godard himself also did that in his films at the time. He never tried to be nice, and it would have been absurd to make him into a consensual character. So it’s a blend of respectful tribute and irreverence. Even from the writing stage, Godard began to wear me out me a little, and I think he also incidentally tired himself out because he was very demanding. And so I put this cumbersome Godard to one side and decided to focus on Jean-Luc and to reinvent my Jean-Luc, who is funny and very human. It was Louis Garrel who paid more attention to the myth and who was very concerned about what Godard fans would make of it, whereas I wanted to nudge the character a little more towards being a clown. That was the subject of much discussion on set.

What about the film’s style? Was your aim to reproduce Godard’s visual codes?
The idea wasn’t to copy and paste, but rather to be inspired by it, to play with a lot of quotations and montages, while always trying to come back to the narrative aspect and tell a love story. As a viewer, I especially like the films from Godard’s golden decade during the 1960s, but as a director, I admire the way he then pressed on with his own life, his own journey, irrespective of what people thought of him. On the other hand, Redoubtable is not a film about Godard; it’s not an academic thesis. He’s a very important director, but also a pop icon and a man. The pop icon aspect gave me the imagery and a way to connect with the viewer, but it was the man whom I was interested in, with his aloofness and his strong opposition. One of the challenges posed by the film was to make a comedy out of a tragedy, in the same vein as the Italian comedies.

(Translated from French)

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