Of all the films that I saw at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival “Redoutable,” written and directed by Michel Hazanavicius and now wisely renamed “Godard Mon Amour” for its commercial release here, is the most important with respect to knowing the history of cinema. The French filmmaker, who had a hit with “The Artist,” has fascinatingly explored the life and career of Jean-Luc Godard.
This is a monumental undertaking, as Hazanavicius attempts to show the up and down sides of the renowned New Wave director and explore his ideas about cinema, his personality and what a pain in the butt he has been as a result of his dogmatism. This all makes for high and entertaining drama.
Cleverly, Hazanavicius has made much of the film mimicking the Godard style, and that often gives the project an amusing flair. Importantly, the director has found exactly the right actor to play Godard—Louis Garrel, who manages to look enough like Godard and act convincingly as well.
Godard is shown in all his fury demanding a revolution in filmmaking and as an important figure in the movement that led up to the 1968 political upheaval. His tendency to alienate others is also dramatized, as in a crowded meeting when he makes insulting remarks, including anti-Semitic and other statements met with boos.
His attitude toward his work is covered, including his denigration of his own early films as he seeks new ground for exploration. Both Godard’s restlessness in his filmmaking and his quirky personal side are highlighted and integrated.
The new woman in his life after his marriage to actress Anna Karina, Anne Wiazemsky, is intriguingly portrayed by stunning Stacy Martin. (The film is based on a memoir by Wiazemsky.) She tries her best to be supportive and deal with his moods, but Godard is shown as an almost impossibly difficult man to live with, a man who pays little attention to the needs of his wife. His own restless talent and his onslaught of provocative declarations are also seen as his undoing, as is the way in which he insults admirers who approach him. In a way he becomes a tragic figure unable to relate well to anyone but himself, and even then he is filled with contradictions.
There is much attention to the student and worker revolt that shook France in 1968, when protests resulted in the cancellation of the Cannes Film Festival in solidarity with the upheaval. (I was at Cannes that year and it took maneuvering to find a car that could get one out of France in the wake of closed gas stations and overrun rental agencies.)
Hazanavicius cleverly mimics Godard’s style with comments directed to the viewer and other staccato interruptions and in-joke references. One of the funniest scenes occurs when both Godard and Anne are full-frontal naked and discussing the use of nudity in films.
“Godard Mon Amour” rises to the level of an extremely important achievement--a work that defines Godard, so important in any survey of French cinema. Hazanavicious merits applause for this milestone in his career. “Godard Mon Amour” is an illuminating film that should be seen by anyone interested in Godard and French film, as well as in the world of cinema itself. A Cohen Media Group release. Reviewed April 20, 2018.