Redoubtable is the new film by Michel Hazanavicius, who made audiences fall in love with that dog in the Academy Award-winning The Artist. His new film tackles one of cinema’s sacred cows, Jean-Luc Godard, and specifically his Maoist period. It’s a part of his career that really started when he dumped his previous and best muse Anna Karina for the 19-year-old actress, Anne Wiazemsky.
Godard was becoming heavily interested in the Maoist version of Marxist-Leninism, which is, of course, deeply authoritarian and utter bullshit. He made some good films during this period, such as La Chinoise and of course Week-End, but he was becoming increasingly insufferable, both in his filmmaking and also in his personal life. This also happened before, after and during the May ’68 riots, which if anything just emboldens his political views.
The film is a deeply satirical take on his life and his love life with Wiazemsky during this time. It completely dismantles Godard as this arch-revolutionary, making him out as more of the naive political buffoon that he was during that period. His friends and eventually his wife are constantly ripping into how he is just as bourgeois as those he rails against. There is even a scene where he drops the mic because he has no way of winning an argument with his Italian contemporaries.
Hazanavicius pulls absolutely no punches when it comes to Godard trying to out-radical the students who lead May ’68, and in turn being mocked unmercifully by them. It also touches on Godard’s well-known anti-zionism which borders on the anti-Semitic: for example, he proclaims in a student meeting that “Jews are the new Nazis,” and constantly tries to backtrack but keeps failing miserably to make it better. His statements are received as about as well as Morrissey’s recent comments about the “rigging” of the election of the new UKIP leader before an audience of 6 Music listeners.
The film also perfectly pastiches the early films of Godard. One particular highlight is when the film goes solarized as it does in Alphaville. It uses chapters as well, which was a technique Godard employed numerous times during this era. Hazanavicius also nods back to silent cinema, which of course he somewhat revitalised with The Artist, with a great gag of Maria Falconetti and Antonin Artaud in The Passion of Joan of Arc mouthing the words of a whispering argument between Godard and Wiazemsky while they watch it together in the cinema.
Godard thought the film was a “stupid, stupid idea” for a movie when he was asked about it, but I think his dislike may come from the fact that he must know he was an insufferable Maoist who treated everybody around him (except his Maoist buddies) like utter dirt. The performance from Louis Garrel as Jean-Luc is pitch-perfect, and Stacey Martin as the recent departed Wiazemsky is great as she portrays the crap Wiazemsky suffered through during their relationship. Overall it’s a real riot throughout which perfectly captures it’s time and place.