Despite being one of the most transformative practitioners in French cinema, there is little theatrical coverage of Jean-Luc Godard’s life - beyond his own films - in modern cinema. Written and directed by Academy award-winning film-maker Michel Hazanavicius, "Le Redoutable" is a film based on the memoirs of Anne Wiazemsky, from her brief, cantankerous marriage with the formidable Maoist sympathiser. It is an intimate portrayal of the couple’s relationship, closely following the man that jump-cut French film history in two.
Approached many times by various directors, to dramatise her memoirs into film, Hazanavicius’ ability to find the hilarity in Wiazemsky’s writings is what won him the authority to re-tell the story, in the end. Bravely approaching the sporadic life of Godard, he insists that the film is not intended to be a biopic - it is merely an exploration of an unexpected love story that is desirable but ultimately destructive; a story that he discovered by chance when he first picked up Wiazemsky’s book ‘Un An Apres”.
Wanting to explore the funnier, lesser-known and more charming side of Godard, that helped him win the heart of young Anne Wiazemsky - who was 20 years his junior at the inception of their love affair on the set of his film “La Chinoise” - Hazanavicius comedically covers the fall of Godard and the inner turmoil of an artist. An artist whose coveted work and pressing social and political passions culminate into general misunderstanding from their audience and a lack of recognition in the preferred reading of his works. Particularly focusing on the repercussions of his film “La Chinoise”’s release, “Le Redoutable” portrays a pivotal moment in Godard’s life which is perfectly reflected in his changing romantic relationship with his wife Anne Wiazemsky.
Conveying Godard’s involvement in anti-establishment protests against the government of de Gaulle, Hazanavicius successfully maintains a lighthearted level of humour throughout. Louis Garrel’s (The Dreamers, The Beautiful Person) take on the auteur's difficult personality, is very much a caricature of what Godard is known for in the modern day. Garrel’s humorous portrayal and the ease at which his co-star Stacy Martin (Nymphomaniac, High-Rise) embodies Wiazemsky’s free spirit, results in a more enjoyable narrative as the viewer is able to understand how Wiazemsky and Godard’s relationship began and how Godard’s impossible bumptiousness ended it; as the narrative follows his developing disenchantment with the commercial film industry.
Although it is not necessarily the film that all Jean-Luc Godard or nouvelle vague fanatics were asking for, the intimate portrayal of his life is immersive and stylistic. Embracing some inherently Godardian techniques, the use of obscene graffiti and inter-titles injects a little of the nouvelle vague into the film’s actual structure, which feels more like a homage from Hazanavicius and is certainly a necessary exercise when creating a film around one of the movement’s pioneers.
This week, Semaine is taking you to 1960’s Paris where you will be engrossed in the world of “Le Redoutable”, beyond the moving picture, as we celebrate its release. So grab your cameras and your tinted spectacles. It’s time to match the formidable style of Godard’s transformative era.
By Kezia Navey for Semaine.