Anyone familiar with the work of Jean-Luc Godard - one of the pioneers of the French New Wave in the 1960s - will be familiar with his incredibly experimental storytelling and dismissal of conventional narrative structures. He was also well-known for his political views and often expressed them in his movies, being a fan of reading Marxist philosophy. It is safe to say that Godard was not a conformist, but that does not mean that he was able to avoid scrutiny during his life.
Redoubtable does not intend to laud Godard (Louis Garrel, who shares a striking resemblance to the director here) as a cinematic hero, but rather mocks him for his pretentiousness. The film largely focusses on his married life to his much younger wife, 17-year-old actress Anne Wiazemsky (Stacy Martin), who starred in Godard's highly Maoist La Chinoise. Even if you are not familiar with Godard's relationship to Wiazemsky, the film indicates straight away that their marriage will crumble; Godard narrates that he knew deep down that his wife would not stay with him and, as the film progresses, we are unsurprised that she decides to leave Godard, who becomes more of a pompous jerk as the story progresses.
This portrayal of Godard as self-important and arrogant may feel too much like a parody for some, but it's difficult to imagine that the director wasn't a little bit imperious considering how revolutionary his films were. Redoubtable was directed by Michel Hazanavicius, the man behind the Oscar-winning The Artist, which seems to have left the memory of a lot of people over the past few years. While Hazanavicius clearly has feelings of admiration towards Godard's work, he uses certain Godard-esque techniques - including breaking the fourth wall - to make Jean-Luc appear to be the butt of the joke. It is extremely praiseworthy when a director isn't afraid to highlight the more negative aspects of a person they evidently adore. It feels more honest and authentic; in turn, it also makes the film a lot funnier.
The story takes place during the late 1960s, not only depicting the rise and fall of Godard's dysfunctional relationship with his wife but also demonstrating how irrelevant and out of touch Godard appeared during student protests at the time. Jean-Luc, now a balding man approaching middle-age, looked like a joke trying to relate to the youth of the day. Godard even expresses his disdain for older people in the film, but he doesn't seem to realise that he will also approach that stage in his life and cannot prevent it. He wants to remain forever young and continue to capture the feelings of young people in his films, but why would anyone be interested in his political movies when they're already dealing with so much politics in their real lives? People, especially during times of hardship, want fantasies and escapism when they go to the cinema; what they do not wish to see on the big screen are reflections of their reality.
If the two leads of the film were not convincing then it is highly unlikely that Redoubtable would have been able to hold itself together, but Garrel loses himself in the role of Godard. He's quietly funny, projecting an abundance of arrogance, and also handles the most cringe-worthy moments of the film very well (the scene where Godard, with confidence, refers to the Jews as the new Nazis is enough to make anyone squirm). Then there's Stacy Martin, who tends to be the voice of reason in this picture but also manages to hold her own against Garrel's Godard and is believable during the moments where her character mocks him. Not only does Hazanavicius imitate Godard's style here, but he also utilises the techniques of other directors; a scene between Jean-Luc and his wife at the breakfast table is incredibly reminiscent of a moment from Woody Allen's Annie Hall.
The film may not be as exciting for those unfamiliar with Godard's work or who don't care for his self-righteous persona, but Redoubtable works as a very amusing parody of a director who spoke for a new generation through the medium of film before he became truly misguided and lost his way.
Last updated: 09/05/2018 14:01:08