Jean-Luc Godard still fascinates film scholars to this day. When Oscar winning director Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist, 2011)’s film adaption of Anne Wiazemsky memoirs of her married life with JLG, un an après, under the title Le Redoutable, was programmed in competition at the Cannes Film fest last summer, Godard devotees started worrying long before they walked on the red carpet.
A Godard biopic? Where no director has gone before.
Le Redoutable, using a light comedy approach that would for sure displease the cult director, pictures a highly ‘cinematic’ JLG. The film covers the late 1960’s. A period in which the director of Breathless (A bout de Souffle, 1960) and Contempt (Le Mépris, 1963) is at the height of his popularity. He is in the midst of shifting from a revolution in films (the French New Wave that carved his name in film history) to try on becoming a revolutionary tout court. This would lead to more ”difficult” (and less public appealing) works like La Chinoise (1967) and, later, Le Vent d’Est (1970) a ‘collective’ film made as a member of the Groupe Dziga Vertov. Both films starred young wife Anne Wiazemsky, played by Stacy Martin (from Lars Von trier’s Nymphomaniac 1 and 2). In the meantime, the May ’68 events take place in France. And Godard played a key role in helping cancel the Cannes Film festival 1968 edition to protest against de Gaulle’s government policies (while staying in pro-de Gaulle Pierre Lazareff’s residence). The whole deal will ultimately arise tension with wife, friends and colleagues.
In choosing light comedy to show the old Godard trying to erase the new Godard, pasticheur in chief Hazanavicius desecrates a man using the tool the idol seems to dismay the most : entertainment. He uses Godardian devices: chapters, citations, inter-titles, jump cuts etc. Featuring actor Louis Garrel (doing quite a sympathetic job here) in the lead, the director draws an emotionally immature, possessive and highly manipulative JLG. The thing (Cinema) belongs to him and he can change the rules as he pleased when he is pleased. A JLG who was made by Cinema and, while trying to ”get himself away from it”, attempts to prevent others from getting a taste of it.
In Le Redoutable, while diehard Godardian will see high treason, the general public (if there is such thing as a general public these days for a biopic on JLG) will find an honest, entertaining – if not very original – work by a capable craftsman.