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: ‘Aus Dem Nichts’ (In the Fade)

Fatih Akin’s exploration of a mother’s loss is both timely relevant and heart-wrenching.

Director: Fatih Akin

Writer: Fatih Akin and Hark Bohm

Producer: Fatih Akin, Ann-Kristin Hofmann, Nurhan Sekerci-Porst, Herman Weigel

Main Cast: Diane Kruger and Numan Acar

Running Time: 106 minutes

The camera shakes violently, encapsulating the violent undertakings of the scene at large. Shaky camerawork sometimes equivocates to sloppy directing, but in the case of In the Fade, it is quite the opposite. The intentional misdirection of the camera captures the raw and unapologetic emotions of the main ensemble during a time of crisis—a time that within ten minutes of the film, determines the course to come. This particular crisis explores themes of depression, political ideologies, and social justice as the protagonist of the film, Diane Kruger’s Katja Sekerci, copes with the loss of her husband and child. A sudden and heart-breaking loss, the audience explores Katja’s pain as she embarks on an adventure of rectification and reason.

Never have I been so immediately captivated by a main actor’s performance. For the immediate ten minutes of the film, the audience watches Katja’s relationship with her husband, Nuri (Numan Acar), flourish. The audience becomes captivated by their unconventional circumstances, as Nuri is a convicted drug dealer who has been released from prison. The two have a son, Rocco, who becomes their shining star. Whilst the family stands out from most, their love for one another is unparalleled. As soon as the audience admires their situation, the plot turns on itself. Katja’s world is flipped upside down, leaving both the audience and Katja dumbfounded. Diane Kruger’s performance is exemplary, for I felt the anger, confusion, and genuine depression she felt as she coped with the loss of her world. As circumstances intensify once the deaths are deemed homicides, Katja’s grief turned vengeance fulfills the audience as well. The war-path for redemption esteems every party involved, fighting for justice for the lives of two pure souls.

Alongside the moving acting performances, the film’s score strengthened emotional scenes. During vulnerable takes, the score would become solemn and subdued to resonate with Katja’s grief. Because grief is a universal emotion, the audience can understand and empathize with Katja’s quest for self-consolation. In one particular scene, Katja is seen cradling her son’s belongings while lying in his bed. Tears steadily flow down her face as both the score strengthens and the outside rain pours. The rain symbolizes the audience’s frame of mind as sympathy overtakes everyone; the viewers can easily place themselves in Katja’s position as her precious son is gone forevermore.

However, possibly the sincerest portion of the film is the directing. The audience becomes tethered to the characters—anything they feel or do, the audience believes they do as well. As Katja walks into her husband’s store and explores the wreckage that is her former life, she recognizes her family’s blood plastered upon the walls. The blood taunts her, openly bullying her predicament. Her scream pierces the audience like a bullet, shattering our hearts into pieces. We soon realize that Katja’s tears and screams are our own, for everyone can relate to those taken away from us too soon. But possibly the most tender moment of the film is Katja’s reactions to the trial proceeding. Two suspects have been arrested in relation to the crime and undergo civil proceedings in court. Katja acts as a co-plaintiff during the proceedings and listens as witnesses, coroners, and psychologists assess the situation at hand. When the coroner reviews the details of Rocco’s death, including ripped limbs, burns, and torn organs, Katja politely asks to leave the room. But, whilst walking towards the door, Katja innately lashes out at Mrs. Möller, one of the suspects. This raw, pure act of violence stems directly from a mother’s love and fierce protection of her child. The mother lion ferociously protects her cub, a basic instinct that resonates within all.

In the Fade epitomizes its solemn, melancholy tone through the use of dark clothing and light backgrounds. The morning after Nuri and Rocco’s death, Katja can be seen wearing all black clothing while grieving in her living area. The sun’s rays shine bright through the room, but Katja looks like the black sheep amongst a sea of light. A similar situation occurs during the court proceedings. The harsh lighting of the court room contrasts against Katja’s and the prosecutors’ dark clothing. This subtle, but evident, symbolism references the grief that Katja experiences, but also the harshness of her situation. The civil proceedings are brutal, particularly as the defendants viciously attack Katja’s life and judgment. However, scenes like this one emphasize the social justice system’s turbulent, and sometimes unfair, procedures. During an era where race, gender, and social strata influence certain privileges, our social justice system should view each situation without bias. Yet, corrupt situations arise, in which this film indicates is a universal situation. Although this is a German film, the emotional availability and political allegories are relevant to each person and state. These political references are needed in these divisive times, for the universal tie of film can bring us together once more.