Redoubtable Review

Redoubtable

Perhaps feeling angry at being portrayed as something akin to a 1960’s left-wing revolutionary pub bore is the real reason why Michel Hazanavicius’ latest film, an enjoyable biopic of the admired director Jean-Luc Godard, has recently been denounced by the great man himself.

Maybe Redoubtable, an account of the doomed marriage of the socially aware Godard and his second wife, the actress Anne Wiazemsky, has tapped into an accidental and uncomfortable truth about impassioned politicos in general.

Could it be that Vladimir Lenin would sit in the snug of his local pub vociferously lecturing anyone who came within earshot about the appropriate facial hair to sport when plotting to overthrow the state?

Legend has it that whilst kicking back in his favourite bar of a balmy evening in Havana, Che Guevara liked to corner a lone revolutionary colleague by the fruit machine and relentlessly bang on about beret etiquette before pretending he had forgotten his wallet again.

And it is widely accepted that Nicolae Ceausescu would angrily admonish anyone for wearing incorrect footwear, or worse, an open necked shirt in the saloon, wistfully and with a tear in his eye recalling the days when womenfolk of the parish were politely requested to occupy another room within the establishment.

At the outset of Redoubtable it is reasonable to assume that life is pretty sweet for Jean-Luc Godard. A handsome, commercially successful and critically acclaimed movie-maker who has recently been directing a private romance with an enchanting and adoring actress barely half his age.

Their existence mainly seems to consist of a series of cleverly scripted, witty vignettes as the charismatic Jean-Luc watches his beautiful and carefree young lover sashay around their swanky Parisian apartment in tiny underwear, pausing every once in a while to consummate their love.

But for some unknown fucking reason the man is still not satisfied.

Godard, inspired by the spirit of proletariat rebellion rife in French political discourse of the late 60’s, has just wrapped an experimental film about a group of plotting revolutionaries, La Chinoise, featuring Anne.

Following its lukewarm reception at the much anticipated premiere and the ensuing mauling at the hands of the fourth estate he sinks into a downward spiral of anger and loathing.

This anger is initially aimed at the critics who fail to appreciate his visionary genius and the French cinema going public who are too thick to understand the subtle allegorical nuance of his masterpiece.

But the real ire is reserved for himself. Godard disowns his previous triumphs, his ability as a director and standing in the industry itself. He threatens to refuse to honour the traditional publicity duties in support of La Chinoise at the annual Cannes film jolly.

Joining massed anti-government demonstrations on the street of Paris, he documents civil unrest on his Super 8 and tries not to get too pissed off when well-wishing fellow protestors urge him to make films like he used to again.

Anne and his similarly smitten circle of friends accompany him on these trips. They pick him up when he falls, defend him when he is criticised, massage his ego and remind him that he is wonderful. But their idol is so bruised by this perceived failure that he can only push them away.

Godard, far from being the ambitious darling of the French nu-wave has become the archetypal bar stalking irritant, complaining that his fellow revolutionaries aren’t revolutionary enough. Publicly denouncing the Jews in Palestine as the new Nazis is a contrived attempt to shock that begins a chain of events which ultimately alienates his close friends.

This reaches its nadir in a claustrophobic and infuriating sequence depicting a long distance taxi from the Cote D’Azur to Paris where the miserable Godard manages to offend everybody in his circle.

Redoubtable

And whilst all of this could be heavy going Redoubtable is more often than not pitched as light hearted comedy. The opening frames depicting the lovers in their intimate honeymoon glow are gorgeously realised.

The humour is played utterly straight, a scene when the two protagonists discuss the over-reliance on gratuitous nudity in modern cinema whilst carrying out their domestic chores in the nip is fabulously unaware.

Louis Garrel is excellent as Godard, bringing an almost hapless, slapstick quality to the part; as if he is aware he takes himself too seriously and secretly hankers for the Inspector Clouseau life.

But ultimately Redoubtable is Anne’s story, based as it is on her memoir. Stacy Martin is captivating as the wide-eyed and often silent muse, displaying a flair for saying little while still vividly conveying exasperation as her husband becomes yet more boorish and controlling.

So whilst I have no doubt that a night out with Jean-Luc Godard would involve detailed analysis of the fourteen different botanicals in a locally distilled gin or other such endlessly fascinating conversation topics, I rather get the impression that, like Hazanavicius’ impressive Redoubtable, it would ultimately add up to a perfectly charming way to spend an evening.

Frank Gardiner

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