After the astounding success of his Oscar-winner The Artist, director Michel Hazanavicius returns to the big screen with Le Redoutable (Godard Mon Amour), his second feature focusing on the magic of cinema. But is this installment as magical as the first?
Set in 1960s Paris, we’re introduced to revolutionary French director Jean-Luc Godard (Louis Garrel), known for À bout de souffle (Breathless), Le Petit Soldat (The Little Soldier), and Week End. Famous for his shooting and editing style, Godard is a 60s visionary, heralded amongst the film crowd and someone others look up to, including Anne Wiazemsky (Stacy Martin), a young actress working with him on La Chinoise. During filming, their relationship blossoms; the pair fall in love and agree to marry, Godard proposing one morning over a naked breakfast.
All seems well, until Anne’s rose-tinted glasses start to slip, and she soon realises her relationship with Godard isn’t as perfect as she (and others) seem to think it is. As revolution rises in France, Godard immerses himself in the violence, taking Anne along with him to throw rocks and shout abuse at police. He wants to make political cinema, films that make statements, and to do so he needs to be where the revolutionaries are. That isn’t necessarily where Anne wants to be; she’d rather be sunbathing with friends in Cannes. And so, with their lives approaching two separate tangents, Anne must decide whether being ‘Mrs Godard’ is enough for her, as her husband becomes more and more distant (and jealous).
It can’t be denied; Hazanavicius knows his stuff when it comes to Godard. Emulating the director’s unique style, Le Redoutable is a great ‘knock-off’ of Jean-Luc’s work. Jump cuts, tracking shots, bright use of colour, breaking the fourth wall – it’s all here, and it’s a joy to watch and marvel at. At times, it’s laugh-out-loud funny, with quick quips and mild slapstick comedy. It’s fun, it’s light, it’s flimsy, and that might be the film’s biggest downfall.
‘Based on true events’ is a dangerous genre to wade into, especially when one of the film’s main players is still alive (Wiazemsky having sadly passed away in 2017). Louis Garrel and Stacy Martin are brilliantly cast and play well together; he the stern, serious, sarcastic Godard, she the carefree, silly Anne. While it’s true that the pair married in 1967, separating in 1970, it’s not clear how much of the plot is ‘real’ and how much is conjecture. Was Godard as sniping and melodramatic in ‘real life’ as he’s played out to be? Was Anne as naive as we’re shown? Whatever the truth of their relationship may be, Garrel and Martin are enjoyable to watch, it’s just a shame the narrative plods along – on the credits rolling, it feels like not a lot actually happened.
Le Redoutable is a lighthearted dig at one of cinema’s greatest names. It’s just a shame Godard’s portrayed in a not-so-favourable light. I wonder what he made of it…
Le Redoutable is released in UK cinemas on 11th May from Thunderbird Releasing.