Redoubtable Review

Despite his evident love for classic cinema, it's difficult to see any direct influence or connection between Michel Hazanavicius and the enfant terrible of the French Nouvelle Vague cinema of the 1960s, Jean-Luc Godard. Famed in France for his popular light-hearted retro OSS 117 espionage features and then internationally for the success of his tribute to silent cinema in The Artist, there's inevitably some concern that Hazanavicius's use of pastiche in Redoubtable won't probe any deeper than the surface of Jean-Luc Godard's iconic imagery and style.

Based on the autobiography by Anne Wiazemsky, who Godard first cast as a member of a French student cell of Marxist revolutionaries in his 1967 film La Chinoise, Redoubtable takes the marriage of the 37 year old Swiss born director to his 19 year old actress as the central relationship that brings together all the other sources of conflict in Godard's life and career around this significant period. Godard might have wanted the main conflict to be the proletariat versus the bourgeoisie, but Redoubtable does well to pinpoint other sources of conflict that were the cause of a major personal and mid-career crisis for the director at this time; youth versus the fascist police, cinema versus revolution, JLG versus everyone, JLG versus JLG, JLG's glasses versus the pavement.

And in the middle of all this is Anne Wiazemsky, a young 20 year old woman from an illustrious bourgeois family lineage, the daughter of Prince Wiazemsky and granddaughter of François Mauriac. Caught up on the tide of revolution she is unsure what side she leans towards, where she stands herself as an individual and as a woman. Despite the source being Wiazemsky's novel Un an après and the director's intention that Redoubtable would be more of a love story than a film about Jean-Luc Godard, the young woman's experience is inevitably overshadowed by the famous director. As played by Stacy Martin (a brunette, her hair styled more like Anna Karina with curiously no effort made to colour it like Wiazemsky's famous red hair) alongside Louis Garrel's studiously worked looks, lisps and mannerisms as Godard, Wiazemsky unfortunately remains somewhat of a blank.

How much of this is down to the force of personality of Godard and how much is down to the emphasis and stylistic decisions taken by Michel Hazanavicius is debatable, but certainly filming it as a pastiche of a JLG film does have an impact on who is the focus of the film. We see Wiazemsky in terms of Macha Méril's black and white images and poses from Une Femme Mariée (1964) and the reclining nudes of Brigitte Bardot in Le Mépris (1963) and as Anna Karina watching The Passion of Joan of Arc in Vivre Sa Vie (1962), none of which have anything to do with Wiazemsky and everything to do with Godard. Hazanavicius also imitates Godard's primary colours, block intertitles, wordplay and revolutionary slogans, overlapping radio sounds and has actors referring to themselves as actors, exposing the artificiality of the cinematic construct.

As clever and entertaining as this is, witty and filled with amusing incidents, does this really do anything more than show up Godard as a pretentious ass? Whatever its original intentions were, Redoubtable does make you question whether Godard is still relevant, and you just might find in his favour. The film's stylisations too are not just an imitation of Jean-Luc Godard; it's more homage than pastiche and the style is an essential element that illustrates the struggle that a filmmaker has to deal with between his own life and career (Hazanavicius's own wife and muse Bérénice Bejo has a role in the film), as well as the wider considerations about the role of cinema and the artist in a consumerist society. Redoubtable is also a good way of going back and reflecting on the spirit of 1968, the concerns about war, the nature of government and the rise of fascism, all topics that continue to be relevant fifty years later in the context of our own time.

The Disc

Redoubtable is released by Thunderbird Releasing on DVD and Blu-ray. The film is known in the USA as Godard Mon Amour, a peculiar choice of title that derives from a Resnais film rather than a Godard one. The Blu-ray release is Region B encoded. The High Definition image is clear and, in the style of Godard, bold in its use of primary colours. The image has a natural softness rather than an over-processed clinical sharpness. DTS HD-Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0 soundtracks are included. There is no option in the menus to include or dispense with subtitles, but they are optional and can be switched off. The subtitles inevitably have some problems capturing all the on-screen texts and slogans and translating the French word-play. One breakfast table conversation translates the spoken text and the unspoken subtitled subtext, but doesn't really differentiate between them other than in the use of italics. A 20-minute Q&A with the director and cast at the BFI London Film Festival is included as a special feature and gives a good indication of the intent and tone of the film.  The film's trailer is also included.

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A playful account of Jean-Luc Godard's marriage to Anne Wiazemsky that manages to probe a little more deeply into the nature of one of French cinema's great directors.


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