Michel Hazanavicius is a master of the creative pastiche. In 2011, The Artist served not only as a fittingly luxurious homage to silent cinema, but also proved the director’s eye for detail and nuance. In Redoubtable his new muse is Jean Luc Godard, French cinematic legend, titan of the New Wave. In an unusual twist, Hazanavicius turns Godard’s camera on the auteur himself, dramatising a snapshot of the pioneer’s life in his own distinctive style.
In this endeavour, the filmmaker succeeds beautifully: the direction and cinematography are dead ringers for Godard’s classy irreverence. Flashing texts, nonchalant voiceovers, the trendy philosophical dialogue – this movie has it all. For audience members familiar with the master’s work, there is a thrill in seeing this come alive in high definition. There is the same sort of excitement one would feel upon hearing that a new Shakespeare play had been discovered. But where The Artist succeeded in taking pastiche and using it to create something that was self-contained in its brilliance, Redoubtable seems to lack the same sense of purpose.
The film boasts a tongue-in-cheek humour that fans of the 1960s movement will know well. Louis Garrel steps up to the plate in his portrayal of the cerebral, fiery, sometimes awkward Godard. Still, it is as though other characters serve only as auxiliaries to his story. Whilst it is interesting, the study doesn’t suffice to sustain a full feature. The movie is based on actress Anne Wiazemsky’s account of her relationship with the filmmaker, but Stacy Martin – who plays the leading lady – is never permitted space to find her own voice.
The US poster for Redoubtable (perhaps misguidedly) carries a quote by Godard himself, saying the film is a “stupid, stupid idea”. In a sense, having this sort of bold statement at the forefront of the feature’s PR effort is a very “Godard” choice. Still, if the movie proves anything, it is both the timelessness and uniqueness of the iconic auteur and the Nouvelle Vague. For now, at least, it is best left in the director’s own hands.
Redoubtable is released in select cinemas on 11th May 2018.
Watch the trailer for Redoubtable here: