In “Le Redoutable” Michel Hazanavicius looks at a slice of Jean-Luc Godard’s career, during an uncertain moment of his life, at the end of the sixties. Godard had wanted to take his cinema in new, more politicized direction, and his relationship to his girlfriend was falling apart. This coincides with a time of great upheaval in France. The backlash from the Vietnam war, a renewal of interest for Maoist ideology, the rise of the unions, all culminated in the Mai 68 events and many a filmmaker, including Godard, led a new rebellion against symbols of power, whether it was the state, the big corporations or even a certain kind of cinema. Godard, who had achieved success with “Pierrot Le Fou” and “A bout de Souffle” found himself one of the standard-bearers of a politically-motivated youth movement. In one notable incident some of the nouvelle vague filmmakers, with Godard jumping into the fray, went down to the Cannes Festival and shut it down. It was May 19th, 1968.
In this new film Hazanavicius (“The Artist”) also addresses Godard’s increasingly-tormented relationship with Anne Wiazemsky (played by Stacy Martin of “Nymphomaniac”), his wife. As the filmmaker attempts to take his cinema into a new direction he is confronted with an existential crisis, one that will slowly choke up his relationship to Anne.
I’m not sure what to really make of this film. It’s got nice colors and good furniture, it’s thoroughly entertaining and smart, with great lines, poetry, violence and romance. But Hazanavicius, not a filmmaker known for gravitas, treats an important moment of France’s modern history too indulgently, in my opinion. He brings hedonistic perspective upon a troubled time in France’s history. One of the film’s big pluses, however, is Louis Garrel, an actor who is at the top of his game right now, and who embodies Godard with so much aplomb, he’s a pleasure to watch. Barring my reservations about the artistic treatment of history, “Le Redoutable” is well-worth your time if only for Garrel’s top-notch performance.
Ali Naderzad is Screen Comment’s founding editor (@alinaderzad)