Attempting to inject some much needed humour into an otherwise forgettable biopic was perhaps a gamble too far forThe Artist director Michel Hazanavicius. Nevertheless, if you’re prepared to ignore its obvious shortcomings and its jarringly aimless screenplay, the director’s latest offering is nowhere near as bad or as flimsy as some would have you believe. Adapted from Anne Wiazemsky’s memoir Un an Après (one year later), Redoubtable charters the actress’s relationship with director Jean-Luc Godard at the height of his political activism during the student uprising of May 1968 in Paris.
Presenting Godard as a pretentious, cantankerous and all together detestable individual, Hazanavicius manages to raise frequent laughs at some of the legendary director’s most ridiculous pronouncement during that time, however this is all done in the most quintessentially French way, meaning that one cannot help but laugh along at the caricatural image offered here, rather than at Godard himself, whom one suspects is in on the joke.
It’s 1967 and Godard, played exquisitely by Louis Garrel, has just finished shooting La Chinoise. Staring newcomer Anne Wiazemsky (Stacy Martin), a twenty year old actress who consequently becomes the filmmaker’s lover then wife, the film is met with mixed reactions, leaving the director having to fend off questions about why he no longer makes films people want to see.
In between complaining about how nobody understands his genius and lengthy tirades about how wrong everyone’s else is, Godard soon finds himself at the heart of the May 1968 student uprising. Disowning all his work prior to his revolutionary engagement, the director renounces his most loved films in favour of his more politically charged projects, like La Chinoise. Meanwhile, caught between her love for an increasingly capricious, unkind and at times plain cruel Godard, and the need to advance her own career, Anne grows tired of his tedious behaviour and starts to feel suffocated by him.
Hazanavicius does an excellent job in presenting Godard, not like the man most of those of us who are fans know him, but as a grotesque caricature of the filmmaker. Garrel is impressive in the Godard role, he espouses the man’s mannerisms and even his speech impediment with a huge amount of expertise. While Stacy Martin is given almost nothing to work with, her character is sadly offered to us as one-dimensional, weak and generally forgettable.
On the whole Redoubtable offers its audience way more than they bargained for with its genuinely impressive period representation of the events of 68, but it is ultimately let down but not quite knowing what it wants to be. As a comedy, the film is faultless in its slapstick nature, but just don’t expect much more than that from it.