Wait­ing for Go­dart

Os­car-win­ning French film­maker Michel Hazanavi­cius com­bines the per­fect bal­ance of com­edy and drama in ‘Re­doubtable’

The Jerusalem Post - - ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT - • By HANNAH BROWN (Cour­tesy Jerusalem Film Fes­ti­val)

‘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.’

(Philippe Aubry Q/Les Com­pagnons)

FRENCH DI­REC­TOR Michel Hazanavi­cius on the set of his lat­est movie, ‘Re­doubtable.’

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