Club Tropicana

Film Review: Redoubtable

18 May 18 words: Elizabeth O'Riordan

Michel Hazanavicius' biopic of French New-Wave pioneer Jean-Luc Godard is anything but hagiographical... 

Director: Michel Hazanavicius

Starring: Louis Garrel, Stacy Martin and Bérénice Bejo

Running time: 107 mins

The French new wave is credited as being one of the most important movements in film history, breaking all the conventional cinematic rules and starting afresh. Creating something new, exciting and fun, their revolutionary take on editing still inspiring the films we see today. From Wes Andersons long tracking shots to Tarantino, who dedicated Reservoir Dogs to Godard.

Following the life of director Jean-Luc Godard, this biopic is a charming but depressing look into the bourgeoisie French society of 1967. The story being told is three-fold, split between Godard’s toxic and obsessive romance with Anne Wiazemsky, his obsession with revolutionising cinema and his obsession with the student political revolution. The overarching theme being Godard’s self-importance.

The aesthetic of the film is an obvious homage to Godard’s own style, from the colour pallet to the nudity shots. Including many of the French new waves signature styles, Redoubtable is full of breaking the fourth wall, contrasting shots and colourful title frames. Even fitting in some meta jokes from Louis Garrel playing Godard, saying things like "if you tell an actor to say actors are dumb, I bet he’ll do it" during his rant on why he hates them. 

The homage to Godard’s techniques mixed with the narrative about his poor behaviour, leaves the audience half in awe and half hating him

In comparison to Anne, Godard himself is presented in a poor light as arrogant, temperamental and above all, mean. During his upper-class preoccupation with justice, a telling scene includes Godard comparing the one working class person he converses with to a peasant. Although some of his rants admittedly made me laugh, I’d be happy to never meet him.

In theory the film could be miserable, trailing the life of Godard as he becomes disillusioned and angry with his own work, starts to hate himself and shouts at every single person he meets. But, the story is presented with a slapstick touch to misery, using editing to create lightness in the dark moments. The camera playing cat and mouse between contrasting shots for humour. Criticised for straying from the source material, it might not be completely accurate, but it is enjoyable. Especially if you’re already a fan of French cinema.

In some ways a parallel can be drawn to Woody Allen’s 2011 film Midnight in Paris, but instead of the writers of 1920s in Paris, it shows the every day life of film makers in 1960s Paris. Both films leaving insider nuggets for the literary or film buff to pick up on and feel proud of themselves.

As far as biopics go, the redoubtable was a neat, light and playful take on Jean Luc Godard, the man, rather than his work. The homage to Godard’s techniques mixed with the narrative about his poor behaviour, leaves the audience half in awe and half hating him. The dynamics between people were well observed and the production value was very high. All in all, I’d recommend a watch, for the great 1960s fashion if not anything else.

Did you know? Jean-Luc Godard himself called the movie a "stupid, stupid idea". The creators of the film then put this quote on the poster in very large font.


Redoubtable is screening at Broadway Cinema until Thursday 24 May

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