10 May 2018


For cinema devotees, by a cinema devotee. Michel Hazanavicius returns to his favourite stomping ground for the first time since the wildly successful THE ARTIST (2011) with REDOUBTABLE. Originally entitled GODARD MON AMOUR, it’s a bio-pic– of sorts – about one of the leading lights of French New Wave cinema.No less than Jean-Luc Godard.

It made its first appearance at Cannes last year and arrives in British cinemas just as this year’s festival gets underway. And the connections don’t stop there, because the event also plays an important part in the latter stages of the film. The year is 1967 and Godard (Louis Garrel) is making a new film, La Chinoise, one that is taking him down a more overtly political route than usual.He’s also fallen in love with its female star, teenager Anne Wiamemsky (Stacy Martin) and they soon marry. She is bowled over by his wit, intelligence intellectual boldness, he by her freshness – and the way she so obviously adores him. But as the director becomes increasingly preoccupied with politics, he has less time for his young wife. And the gap between them grows increasingly wider ….

He might be enamoured of his younger lover, but it’s crystal clear right from the start that Godard is a difficult and complex person – self-obsessed and a master of the passive-aggressive, especially when it comes to keeping Anne under control. At 37, he’s not keen on older people, believing there’s a lot to be said for Mozart’s approach to life, ie dying at 35. All artists should do it. On the plus side, he has a wickedly playful sense of humour which, when on show, is enormously endearing. But that wit is starting to fade, to be replaced with something closer to self-pity and a gloomy misanthropy.

Politically, the Godard we're shown is a walking disaster area – the Frank Spencer of political activism. Every time he stands up to speak to large groups – often students – he’s booed out of the lecture room. His sense of timing is terrible.  There’s a moment when he decides to stick around at a march because he’s confident the atmosphere is good and seconds later it’s stormed by riot police. More expensively, there’s a farcical running gag involving his glasses being knocked off his nose and smashed every time he’s involved in a demonstration. He’s also part of a group that tries to have Cannes cancelled because it’s irrelevant which, in the context of this year’s varied debates, seems all the more acute again.

Hazanavicius is as in love with cinema as ever, but this time he takes a more questioning approach. Not a particularly profound one, it has to be said, but this is a film that places more emphasis on comedy than philosophy, so the debates about cinema’s function – entertainment or education? – never really go anywhere. Unless it’s to a blazing row on a long drive from Cannes to Paris. The atmosphere could be sliced into slivers with a knife and it’s only a matter of time before Godard loses his rag. Spectacularly.

The director gets great performances from his cast, especially Garrel as Godard, who expertly portrays the darker side of the man while making the most of all the opportunities for laughs. There are moments when he’s genuinely horrible to his younger wife and consumed with unjustified jealousy so that he soon starts to totter towards the edge of the pedestal she’s placed him on. The political atmosphere of the late 60s is re-created superbly, the riot sequences are suitably authentic and the humour handled with a light touch.

The downside of REDOUBTABLE is that there’s one too many ideas or questions floating around for the 90 minute running time. None of them are as fully developed as they should be so that, while the enjoyment factor is high, the end is accompanied by a slight feeling of emptiness. Leaving the audience wanting more isn’t always the best approach.

Freda Cooper

Biography, Comedy, Drama | France, 2017 | 15 | 11th May 2018 (UK) | Thunderbird Releasing | Dir.Michael Hazanavicius | Luis Garrel, Stacy Martin, Berenice Bejo, Micha Lescot

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