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.