Michel Hazanavicius’ Redoubtable takes an acidic look at the iconoclastic Jean-Luc Godard and very much ‘clasts’ the icon. Just as May and 1968 is exploding in France, Jean-Luc Godard (Louis Garrel) although at the height of his success and newly married to 19-year-old philosophy student Anne Wiazemsky (Stacy Miller), is going through an existential crisis, specifically related to the role of the cinema in the forthcoming and inevitable revolution.
“Oh what bliss it was in those days to be alive, but to be young was very heaven,” wrote Wordsworth on his experience in revolutionary Paris and Godard is keenly aware that he is no longer blissfully young. His attempts to engage with the students are met with irritating fan worship or insolent rejection as a bourgeois establishment figure. Meanwhile, his latest film – which Ann has a starring role in – is met with contempt from all quarters, including Mao’s China who it was obviously intended to please.
As the revolutionary movement peaks and then drops off, Jean-Luc continues to try to square his politics with his role in film. Disruption emerges as one strategy as Godard manoeuvres to have the Cannes Film Festival cancelled in protest against the government (maybe that’s it) and alienates a growing number of fellow directors – including Bernardo Bertolucci in one scene – with his eviscerating critique of popular culture. Hazanavicius seems to suggest that this is an act of insecure self-sabotage and stubbornness on Godard’s part. It also sees the slow flaking away of Anne’s affection. Even as Godard claims to want to kill Godard, he succeeds only in becoming the monolithic paradox machine who makes for wonderful copy if you like incoherence.
All of this is shown in the key of pastiche. A comment will be made on a cinematic technique – a tracking shot say – followed by said shot. The actors say their archly knowing lines straight to camera and Redoubtable begins to resemble a 107-minute wink. One cake-and-eat-it moment involves both actors deprecating nudity in films while completely starkers. This would have been funnier if we hadn’t already had so much Anne-nudity, including an inevitable Le Mépris parody. That said, Garrel and Miller manage to create a credible chemistry. Garrel’s Godard is an intellectual Mr. Bean, constantly falling on his backside and breaking his glasses. But he is also an insecure husband who can’t quite believe his luck. Miller is great in going from worshipping ingenue to a savvy actress who needs to escape her husband’s misanthropic shadow.
John Bleasdale | @drjonty