Redoubtable (15) Review

Steven Ross reviews this biopic

Steven Ross
29th May 2018
Image: YouTube

From the director of The Artist comes a brighter but slightly less exciting follow up. Redoubtable follows French New Wave director Jean-Luc Godard, and his wife and actress Anne Wiazemsky as they fall in and out of love. Set against the backdrop of the 1968 student demonstrations in protest of capitalism, among other perceived social ills, these tumultuous events come closer to the forefront as the movie progresses. Godard delved deep into the world of revolutionary cinema and in-so-doing, became a revolutionary, at the expense of his friends and his wife. Director Michel Hazanavicius captured this part of Godard’s colourful life.

Based on a true story, and real characters, the real-life Godard, now eighty-seven years old, said that making a film about his relationship with his ex-wife was a ‘stupid, stupid idea’, a quote which then put on the promotional posters … in bold. Godard was probably right to object, because in the film he is portrayed as a total prick, probably because the movie was adapted from Wiazemsky’s memoirs. Godard is shown to express distain for any act that is not directly linked to the revolution, stab his best friend in the back for the benefit of the revolution, and ignore and demean his wife because he is so wrapped up in, you guessed it, the revolution. However, Hazanavicius did show his fellow filmmaker a great deal of reverence, shooting the film in typical Godard style, using character asides, jump cuts and filming briefly in negative.

Strangely, there are also references to some of Woody Allen’s work, which although funnier, seems a little out of place. The film is therefore even more arthouse than The Artist, and in some ways, this is to the determent of the viewing experience. Interesting camerawork can be fun but in the case of Redoubtable, it often gets in the way and feels clumsy. Whilst Godard used these methods to revitalise cinema, Hazanavicius merely mimics and therefore brings nothing new to the screen. There are some jokes scattered about and irony is everywhere, although it’s hardly a laugh a minute. The scene where Godard and Wiazemsky strip off whilst discussing the gratuity of nudity in the film industry is a particularly strong moment.

The film’s strength, however, really does lie in its leading man and woman. Louis Garrel, who rose to prominence in 2003's The Dreamers, nails the role of the unlikeable genius director. He delivers his lines with a sharp distaste and contempt which comes across in spite of the language barrier. Stacy Martin who has only been on the silver screen since her starring role in Nymphomaniac is brilliant as the long-suffering wife and her ability is really showcased in the film’s denouement. The supporting cast do a good job too and offer a contrast to the single mindedness of Godard. Grégory Gadebois plays Michel, the embittered friend who, like most other characters, becomes increasingly alienated by the director.

Redoubtable is an excellent homage to Godard by an assured and acclaimed director, as to whether it will appeal to those who are not au fait with the French Swede’s work, I have my doubts.

Rating: 3/5

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