Film · Review

Redoubtable (Godard Mon Amour) Review – Nouvelle (but) Vague

It’s a question that we don’t really got to think about too much anymore. What if your idol turned out to be a big old shit? Like, not just gross in the egregious ways that have sprung wild into our consciousness this past year but just an all round shit. A pretentious, self-important, uncommunicative asshole. They’re probably very intelligent too but struggle to apply it when divorced outside their comfort zone.

I don’t know what i was getting at here, I was trying to rough out a description of the type of internet celebrities that inevitably disappoint me. I think I just described myself though. I mean, minus the gross shit, don’t hold truck with none of that. It’s probably a good thing that I ain’t better known, fewer people out there to let down.

I remember being sixteen, in the only proper relationship I’ve had in my entire life. I was awful at it. I’m not a bad person, I’m just not a good person to be with. That’s fine, not everyone can be good at everything. One just has to focus on the more achievable goals, find comfort in the spaces they can thrive, struggle toward goals that are more edifying. I’m making excuses for myself sure, but I once screwed up and made someone hurt. I don’t wanna do that again.

That’s kinda why Redoubtable was an uncomfortable watch for me. Set after the release of Jean-Luc Godard’s La Chinoise and running through the events of France’s anti-captialist protests of 1968, we see the man marry and mistreat the much younger star of his film. All your sympathies are supposed to be with her. Godard reacts badly to the negative reception of his communist parable and, so desperate to prove himself, throws himself headfirst into the ongoing political fray.

He hopes that his fervour and theoretical understanding will somehow transmute into getting it. But, it doesn’t, he can’t. There’s no way for him to grasp on to the outside perspective; and the one person who is sincerely trying for him, his wife, he ignores and mistreats. You’re supposed to be rolling your eyes at the shenanigans of this goofy dude, with the silliness slowly being tempered by the wrecks he leaves in his wake. I just saw a reflection of all the parts of me that I had hoped that I might be able to leave behind.

Michel Hazanavicius is doing his The Artist thing, constructing a period piece in the style of the period. I can’t say how well it works, I have not seen enough Godard (or of the New Wave full stop) for the construct to seem stable in my head. I can say that it certainly feels affected, but how much of that is deliberate? The ones I have caught were pretty stilted in their own way. Like the very conceits of moviemaking are a silliness in themselves to find meaning in the form.

The running gag here of Godard constantly breaking his glasses feels like it fits here, but I can’t find why. Is this hit-piece designed to destruct the man using his own forms of rhetoric? Or is it a farewell to the JLG works of old before his work entered a rough and controversial period of formal experimentation? I don’t really know, I’m not sure it knows. It just never feels unconscious, an overthinking, posturing way of depicting an overthinking posturing man.

The one thing it don’t give enough thought to though is Stacy Martin, playing the wife and muse Anne Wiazemsky. Strangely, even though she is the protagonist the film emulates what it considers to be Godard’s fatal flaw. It never once looks at her. We are never invited to see the world as she perceives it. We ride with him and see a woman who loves him without an honest explanation why, ‘He is an artist, and a revolutionary and a great man.’ are things that men write when they can’t be bothered to understand the motivations of women.

The film comes out too tangled in its own deliberate preoccupation with auteurism. It is, even more so in its American retitling, Godard Mon Amour, a film about film. About a filmmaker, and about the turning point in his career that Hazanavicius clearly holds in low regard. You see in the credits though that it’s actually based on Anna’s memories, her insight, her experience. And suddenly that whole affair feels very dishonest.

Redoubtable is currently screening in UK cinemas.

Is the exposed pipes aesthetic even a thing anymore?
Images courtesy of Thunderbird Releasing

 

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