Waiting for Godart
Oscar-winning French filmmaker Michel Hazanavicius combines the perfect balance of comedy and drama in ‘Redoubtable’
‘It’s a funny and tragic love story,” said Michel Hazanavicius, the director of Redoubtable, a comedy/drama about the love story between master French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard and Anne Wiazemsky, the young actress who became his second wife.
Redoubtable, which is now playing all over Israel, was the opening-night movie of the Jerusalem Film Festival in July, and Hazanavicius, along with the movie’s star, Louis Garrel, was a guest at the festival. The movie had its world premiere last spring at in the main competition at the Cannes Film Festival.
For Hazanavicius, who is best known as the Oscar-winning director of The Artist, a fast-paced look at the world of silent movies (which won five Oscars altogether, including Best Picture and Best Actor), Redoubtable is an uncharacteristically political film, although Hazanavicus manages to mix laughs and romance with the politics.
The movie chronicles Godard’s life in the late Sixties, when the director – who made his name with his first feature, Breathless (1960), a stylish, audacious gem of the French New Wave movement – became increasingly engaged with politics, and turned his back on the idea of artistic expression. Redoubtable examines what inspired him to make that transition, which was a definite loss for moviegoers, as his films devolved from storytelling to speechifying.
Godard was once a great director, but he is not a particularly interesting political thinker, and Redoubtable focuses on how Anne Wiazemsky (Stacy Martin), a young woman from a prominent and politically engaged family but who, unlike Godard, loved and enjoyed life, found herself caught up in his dilemma.
“I put politics into it to recreate the atmosphere of May 1968,” said Hazanavicius, referring to the student revolt that took place during that period. The revolt inspired Godard and other directors to disrupt the Cannes Film Festival, which closed five days early.
In one sequence that attracted a great deal of attention, Godard stands up at a large meeting at the Sorbonne and proclaims that Israeli Jews are “the new Nazis,” undaunted by the boos from the crowd.
“He has this obsession, it’s his, not mine,” said Hazanavicius, who is Jewish and whose family was originally from Lithuania. His parents survived World War II by hiding out. “I couldn’t have empathy with this, but it was difficult not to put it in.”
For the director, Godard’s politics were not the center of the story, but one element that illustrated his conflicts. The movie is based on Wiazemsky’s autobiographical novel, Un an apres, about her life with Godard during this period, following their collaboration on the bizarrely comic La Chinoise (1967), about a group of bourgeois students who become Maoist revolutionary terrorists.
Hazanavicius, who read her book on a train, called Wiazemsky afterwards and told her he wanted to make her book into a movie, but she didn’t think it was suitable for adaptation.
“She was about to hang up when I told her, ‘I think your book is really funny,’” he said. “She said, ‘I think it’s funny but nobody really told me it was funny.’”
The movie is at its best in its lighter moments, such as when Godard arrives in Cannes to stop the festival and ends up, in spite of his protestations, staying with Wiazemsky and her friend, Michele, at a spectacular villa that belongs to an acquaintance of theirs. Michele is played by Berenice Bejo, the actress who starred in The Artist and who is Hazanavicius’ wife. In 2014, she also starred in Hazanavicius’ feature The Search, playing an NGO worker in war-torn Chechnya, who bonds with a little boy. The Search was not well as well received as Hazanavicius’ lighter works, but he said this did not bother him.
“The Artist was sweet, like candy, it was old-fashioned fun. The Search was not funny at all,” he said. In Redoubtable, he found a story that mixed comedy and drama in a way that was the perfect combination for the director. “You have to find the right balance,” he said.
LOUIS GARREL (left) and Stacy Martin star in Michel Hazanavicius’s ‘Redoubtable.’
FRENCH DIRECTOR Michel Hazanavicius on the set of his latest movie, ‘Redoubtable.’