Redoubtable (2017)

In a timely release for the anniversary of the May 1968 almost-revolution in Paris, Michel Hazanavicius wickedly funny re-invention of Jean-Luc Godard in Redoubtable, as seen though the eyes of Anne Wiazemsky, his second wife.

Waiting for Godard

by Alexa Dalby


CAUTION: Here be spoilers

Based on Jean-Luc Godard’s second wife Anne Wiazemsky’s memoirs, Redoubtable follows the iconic director, already famous for Le Mépris and À Bout de Souffle, over a few years of his life. The high point is 1968, the year of ‘les evenements” in Paris, when violent demonstrations by students and workers almost triggered a revolution and Godard was an active intellectual participant.

Anne is an actress aged only nineteen in 1966 when the film starts, almost twenty years younger than Godard. They’re in love and in the process of making his film La Chinoise together. Their relationship and Godard’s work is seen solely through her eyes. At first they’re happy. She’s in awe of her intellectual celebrity husband but as his jealousy and extreme-left politics take hold of him, both personally and politically, tensions increase.

Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist) has made another pastiche film that’s wickedly funny at times. In Redoubtable he cleverly references Godard’s conscious detachment technique as he punctuates the action by dividing the film into sections with names that play on the titles of Godard’s films. Scenes from Godard’s life, such as the interlude in Cannes, where he attended to try and get the festival stopped as an irrelevance amid the political upheavals of 1968, are filmed in a way that parodies scenes from his own films. There are perhaps nods to Woody Allen in the preference of his fans for his earlier, funnier films and the subtitled breakfast-table dialogue between Godard and Anne.

But it’s not a biopic as much as the story of a marriage and the two people who find themselves trapped in it. It’s selective from Anne’s point of view and presents Godard as somewhere between a creative genius and a nerdy buffoon. There’s a running theme of him falling over and breaking, and having to replace, his trademark heavy black-rimmed tinted glasses. It charts the growing intensity of his all-pervasive political engagement as it affected his life and his filmmaking process but though it’s very enjoyable, it’s also a trivialisation of him as a person and his achievements as a groundbreaking auteur.

Redoubtable premiered at the 70th Cannes Film Festival, screened at the 61st BFI London Film Festival and is released in the UK and on demand on 11 May 2018.

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