Directed by Michel Hazanavicius.
Starring Louis Garrel, Stacy Martin, Bérénice Bejo, Micha Lescot, Grégory Gadebois, Félix Kysyl. 108 mins.
Or Jean-Luc Godard in Love. Just like Shakespeare. A fairly niche topic I grant you, but I can't see why they dumped the original title, Godard Mon Amour, which would at least perk the interest of the niche target audience, for one that surely wont perk the interest of any human being on the planet. This latest film from the director of The Artist drops in on Godard (perfectly caught by Garrel) around the May revolutions in 1968 when he was on the verge of moving from making bold, revolutionary, challenging films that appealed to a narrow audience; to making bold, revolutionary, unwatchable films that appealed to nobody. While making tedious Maoist yakfest La Chinoise (out on blu-ray now from Arrow Films but I just couldn't face reviewing it) he showed that he was a truly revolutionary director by falling in love with, and then marrying his leading lady, Anne Wiezemsky (Martin) who was nearly half his age.
Godard is the French Gazza: a prodigious natural talent who was only ever to fully express that talent in a few brief flashes. Where Paul Gascoigne was hampered by injuries, OCD and alcoholism, J-LG was crushed by ideology. Most any of his films from the last half century (excluding a few from the tentative early 80s revival) are the intellectual equivalent of turning up to see Raoul Moat with a few tinnies; provocative and inexplicable actions that get you nowhere.
Hazanavicius' film is an expression of the betrayal still felt at Godard's rejection of cinema half a century ago. His scheme is to use his gifts against him: adopting the playful anti-realism of Godard's early films to create a tres bourgeois light comedy drama of his life. At one point the script has Godard espouse, “Actors are dumb. Beneath contempt. They cry and laugh on demand, even crawl. I find that grotesque. They aren't free,” and then the actor playing Godard looks into the camera to complete the diatribe, “If you tell one to say that actors are dumb, I bet he'll say it.” The comedy is fairly broad and conventional: Godard keeps breaking his glasses, he continually misjudges the mood of situations, he is spectacularly rude to people and, just like Woody Allen in Stardust Memories, people keep asking when he's going to make funny films again, like his early ones. It is also full of puns and wordplay that the translator seems to have done very well to get across, but if you don't speak French you will feel a lot is being lost.
The film is harsh on Godard – he is a total hypocrite, railing against injustice while behaving like a monster – but also warmly sympathetic. He says that “Artists should die at 35...(like Mozart)... before becoming an old fart,” but he is so desperate to be down with the kids, to be a pure revolutionary, to not be the establishment, that through his Maoist self-criticism he paradoxically turns himself into Victor Meldrew. But in parodying his heady early work, Hazanavicius does him the greatest service you could do for Godard: he reminds you of why he once mattered and of the two or three films by Godard you still love.
A Bout de Souffle
Pierret Le Fou
Goodbye To Language