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A Caricature of Godard: Michel Hazanavicius’s Redoubtable (2017 Cannes Review)

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By Ali Moosavi.

Michel Hazanavicius became a cinema celebrity six years ago at Cannes where The Artist became the sensation of the festival and went on to win several Oscars, including Best Film, Director, and Actor. This year Hazanavicius is back at Cannes, in the Official Competition category with Redoubtable. It is, by any means, a strange film. Based on Anne Wiazemsky‘s autobiography, the film covers a few turbulent years between 1967-1969 at the beginning of her marriage to Jean-Luc Godard. Apparently Godard has dismissed the film as a pack of lies and, having watched the film, it is obvious why he would hate it. Hazanavicius and Wiazemsky paint a one-dimensional, caricature portrait of Jean-Luc Godard as an insecure, insanely jealous, half-assed communist man who is unsure of himself and the others. In depictions of public meetings and demonstrations, organized by the French Left, he becomes the subject of ridicule when he makes statements such as “Jews are today’s Nazis” and so on. In short, he is shown as a jerk (in fact he is referred to as such in one of the scenes).

RedoubtableThe film kicks off with Godard having just completed La Chinoise and just getting married to Wiazemsky. He takes the film to China and, to his horror, finds that the Chinese dismiss the film. This makes Godard question his own credentials as a committed communist and, in order to justify his status as a left-wing activist, he joins demonstrations and socialist meetings. Even when demonstrations end up with scuffles with the police, he gets off due to his celebrity status. The Godard-Wiazemsky relationship, but not their marriage, comes to a bitter end in 1969 when she is acting in Marco Ferreri’s The Seed of Man and Godard becomes overtly jealous and suspicious of Anne’s relationship with the film’s male star.

It really is a strange and daring choice for Hazanavicius to make such a movie about a living legend who is adored and reviled almost in equal measures. Louis Garrel, playing Godard, has been made to look and even sound like Godard. He does it well but there is no depth in the characterization in the script. Stacy Martin, as Anne Wiazemsky, gets all the audience’s sympathy. The film has its funny moments but one certainly cannot call it an affectionate portrait of Godard, but a cardboard portrait of a living artist.

Ali Moosavi has worked in documentary television and has written for Film Magazine (Iran), Cine-Eye (London), and Film International (Sweden). He contributed to the second volume of the The Directory of World Cinema: Iran (Intellect, 2015) and is based in the United Arab Emirates.

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