I have to start this review by admitting a shameful fact: I am not a huge fan of Jean-Luc Godard. I appreciate ‘Breathless’ as much as the next wanky film student, but the rest of his filmography is a bit of a blur. Hence, perhaps a huge fan of his work will get much more satisfaction out of ‘Redoubtable’ than I did. In all honesty I really hope so – because I didn’t get a great lot from it, and, far from improving on my limited knowledge, the film actually left me with an even more muddled perception of Godard than before.
‘Redoubtable’ is not a straightforward biopic, by any means. Hazanavicius uses the relationship between Jean-Luc Godard (played by Louis Garrel) and Anne Wiazemsky (played by Stacy Martin), who were married between 1967 and 1979, to frame Godard’s struggle between himself as an artist and himself as a revolutionary individual. Godard, in his late 30s at the opening of the film, is regarded with distaste by the youth of the time, and has to come to terms with this fact whilst remaining in total awe of a movement that loathes him. This story is told from a fairly comedic angle, incorporating elements of a distinctly New Wave style, imbued with a certain level of whimsy and quirk despite its occasionally weighty subject matter. For example, the film is split up into chapters throughout, allowing for quick movement between periods of Godard’s life and development and, at one point, the screen flashes with inverted colours, perhaps indicating an internal divide between art and the individual. These choices initially make for interesting viewing, as they reflect on the iconic nature of the protagonist whilst creating a light-hearted atmosphere. These techniques illustrate a backdrop upon which it is easy to make a mockery of Godard– self-absorbed, ignorant and ironic, and so often the laughing point as a wannabe revolutionary who longs to fit in amongst younger, more radical activists. In the end, however, these flairs fail to make the same artistic statement as their inspiration, and therefore are left looking like little more than banal tribute, rather than original output. Just as Godard cannot seem to find a way to portray the revolution without compromise, Hazanavicius cannot seem to find a way to portray Godard without cheaply replicating his style.
On a more positive note, Louis Garrel delivers a fantastic performance as the iconic film-maker, perfectly encapsulating the infuriating mannerisms of a man obsessed with his public image, and every dead-pan line he delivers is brilliant. There is also a very relevant debate at the heart of the film, as it makes a point out of the way that the privileged may mould themselves into becoming “acceptable” to the people they inherently oppress, and the difficulty that comes from being unable to connect with youth and revolt. It also lightly addresses the issue of hypocrisy within activist circles; as Godard marches for the freedom and rights of the oppressed, he enjoys the luxuries of expensive hotel suites and exclusive restaurants. The film does all of this, however, with little consideration for Godard – he is, at virtually all times, the punchline to a joke which everybody else is seemingly partaking in. There is so little warmth to the script that it is hard to care much about the protagonist either way, even during more serious scenes; his struggle is almost well-deserved. In the end, this lack of heart in means that the jaunty style of the film eventually becomes tiring, as there is very little beneath the gimmicks and jokes.