Cannes Film Festival 2017 Review: ‘Le Redoutable’ (Redoubtable)

An ironic satire of Jean-Luc Godard’s unconventional life.

Director: Michel Hazanavicius

Writer: Michel Hazanavicius

Producer: Daniel Delume, Florence Gastaud, Michel Hazanavicius, Riad Sattouf

Main Cast: Louis Garrel, Stacy Martin, Berenice Bejo, and Micha Lescot

Running Time: 107 minutes

The background noise faintly rises, mentioning the launch of an invincible missile submarine called the Redoutable. The main ensemble ignores the mention of this ballistic missile ship, but this slight interjection sets the stage for the arc of Jean-Luc Godard’s artistic career. The parallels between this formidable submarine, whose expiration date came too soon, parallel Godard’s slow downfall into an ignorant, blatant director whose eyes and ears were closed to those around him. Once thought to be the most significant film director of his era, Godard throws his reputation to the wind as he chases after a political activist lifestyle. Rather than create traditional films to appease to a larger audience, Godard identifies with the ‘New Wave’ concept; this movement pushes for the innovation and experimentation of film as opposed to the more traditional style of film. His radical mindset soon transitions from passenger to controller, dictating his every move. Those closest to Godard do not appreciate his increased detachment from normality, causing tension to rise and relationships to fall as Godard grapples with his slipping slope of a life.

Director Michel Hazanavicius is back again, finding the limelight once more after his internationally acclaimed film The Artist. His take on Jean-Luc Godard’s life is quite intriguing, for Godard’s life somewhat parallels his own. Both The Artist and Le Redoutable feature Berenice Bejo, Hazanavicius’s wife. The premise of Le Redoutable focuses on Godard’s newest film, which features his newlywed. This director-actor relationship becomes intertwined with their personal lives, erasing the boundaries between the two. Thus, Hazanavicius brings a unique perspective to Godard’s situation, for their lives are somewhat similar. Because of this ironic position, Hazanavicius pokes fun at both Godard and himself through the use of comedic dialogue and self-deprecating plot lines. The dialogue often infuses sharp one-liners; these one-liners are delivered by the actors straight to the camera, so that the audience is invited to participate in the comedic effect. In one particular scene, Louis Garrel, who is acting as Jean-Luc Godard, stares into the audience’s eyes and states, “I’m not a particularly good actor playing Godard.” He later mockingly discusses society’s ignorance regarding foreign cultures. He states to the audience that “I don’t know Chinese. Chinese names are complicated.” Although seemingly uncalled for, these scripted lines make the film relatable and relevant, pointing out both personal flaws and intrinsic biases. By doing so, the film is able to adapt an older biographical tale to modern times.

The film’s highlight is its screenwriting, as both the dialogue and ironic scenes hold the audience’s attention for over an hour and a half. These satirical shots mock both the cast and crew and the film industry itself, fixating on the superficial and glamorized version of the business. The film begins by mocking its actors and actors’ expectations in regards to privacy on screen. Both Jean-Luc Godard and his wife, Anne Wiazemsky (Stacy Martin), are fully nude in the bedroom. Whilst the two are casually brushing their teeth, they discuss how they could never be fully nude for an acting role. This situational irony turns upon itself, ridiculing those people that are directly creating the film. Scenes like these keep the audience attentive, for it is rare that films put itself in compromising situations. However, if an audience can develop an emotional connection to those within the film, the film’s chance of success will skyrocket.

The film further pokes fun of itself by critiquing its selection for the Cannes Film Festival. Godard brushes off the notion that his friend’s film has been selected for Cannes, stating “Who cares about Cannes?” The line may have been intended for pure comedic effect, but also implies an alternative political statement. Cannes is notorious for choosing films based upon reputable directors, and Le Redoutable is no exception. With The Artist winning five Academy Awards in 2012, including Best Director for Hazanavicius, Le Redoutable was immediately put on Cannes’s radar. Cannes prefers films with luxurious armies to back them, especially those with small golden statues for shields.

Le Redoutable was both entertaining and inquisitive, a feat difficult to master for most. The cinematography and camerawork were nothing superb, but what makes this film worth watching is Hazanavicius’s independent, no nonsense mindset. He recognizes the reasoning behind his film’s selection and decides to blatantly point out this discrepancy at the core of his film. He makes fun of himself, his cast, crew, and workplace, in an obvious and tasteful manner, which left me quite impressed. I cannot tell if this film will go over well with general audiences, but then again, films are complicated.

Cannes Film Festival 2017 Review: ‘The Clapper’

An attempt at an awkward situational comedy.

Eddie Crumble casually strolls the streets as he makes his morning walk to work. The fictional, cartoonish background changes quite smoothly, transitioning into pastel-colored depictions of a grand city. Yet, Eddie is not a cartoon. His surroundings look something from a graphic novel, but Eddie himself is out of place. This opening scene gives viewers a glimpse into the mundane life of Eddie Crumble—a life that is filled with a monotonous job, few friends, and a quaint apartment in the heart of Los Angeles. Whilst most people living in Los Angeles seek the fast-paced life found within the film industry, Eddie is perfectly content being anonymous.

The audience watches as Eddie (Ed Helms), a forty something year old man, navigates his life as a ‘clapper.’ Eddie, along with his best friend (Tracy Morgan), are the official audience members of various commercials. He sits in the audience, donning a new costume each day, and claps at the appropriate moments. His routine never falters. Eddie’s life seems like it would get tiring after some time. But, Eddie becomes a ‘somebody’ once a late night talk show host notices Eddie’s appearance in multiple infomercials. The search is on to find the infamous ‘clapper,’ but Eddie does not want to be found. Eddie prefers his lost and found box of a life, tucked away for the world to forget and ignore. Eddie’s attempt to avoid an attention-filled life becomes turbulent, affecting both his personal and professional life. His friends and potential girlfriend (Amanda Seyfried) become intertwined in his quest to remain hidden, to keep private the once unknown name of Eddie Crumble.

The premise of the film seemed interesting, as the film focuses upon the consequences of undesired fame. Eddie does not want to be in the limelight. His shyness wraps himself like a cocoon and this caterpillar is not ready for metamorphosis. The film does not shy away from capitalizing upon its awkwardness, but it does so in an uninteresting manner. Films like Juno and Superbad have catapulted socially awkward humor to the forefront of comedies, but this film falls flat in doing so. The jokes are expected and familiar, leaving the audience embarrassed for those telling them. The timing of the jokes is often ten seconds too late, leaving a train-wreck of misfit jokes to linger around the audience. By the mid-point of the film, the unoriginality of these conversations becomes blatant, like a stain upon a white t-shirt. These stained jokes tarnish the quality of the film’s plot, distracting the audience from Eddie’s life crisis.

However, the film’s humor is not the sole black sheep. The rough editing of a few long scenes left me dazed and confused. Eddie and his girlfriend are on their first date, enjoying a ‘romantic’ meal inside of a fast-food restaurant. Rather than the camera focusing upon one person for a short while, and then cutting to the other person, the camera quickly flips back and forth between the couple. For every line of dialogue, the camera focuses upon that person. So, if the person solely says a few words, the camera is cutting quite closely. These choppy transitions during the conversation were distracting and mind-numbing. I began to focus on the camera angles more than the actual dialogue, which left me further puzzled.

Many of the shots of the film focused on the background noise alongside the forefront dialogue. The shots were incredibly wide, which made me question the validity of the scenes. The Los Angeles highways were irrelevant to conversations, so the looming background became a distraction rather than a scenic background. If the shots were better-angled or closer up, I would have focused more upon the words being said rather than the pedestrians walking through the local gas station. These background interactions proved unrelated to the plot line, so I remain confused as to the purpose of various scenes.

The Clapper’s intentions were pure, but seemed to be misguided in its quest to humor the audience. I was too often distracted by careless edits and rough transitions to listen to Eddie Crumble’s disorienting life crisis. Whilst Ed Helms and Amanda Seyfried performed their roles well, the screenwriting was such that it simply did not matter. It is difficult to turn poorly written material into an entertaining film, regardless of how superb the cast is. I hope that this film is a bump in the road for the main ensemble of the film, for I cannot imagine this film doing well at the box office. I advise saving ten dollars for a film ticket and seeing another film. You’ll thank me later for doing so.

Director: Dito Montiel

Writer: Dito Montiel

Producer: John M. Bennett, Michael Bien, Ray Bouderau, Maurice Fadida

Main Cast: Amanda Seyfried, Leah Remini, Ed Helms

Running Time: 89 minutes