Of all the films that I saw at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival “Redoutable,” written and directed by Michel Hazanavicius, 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 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 meeting when he makes insulting remarks, including 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. Godard’s restlessness in his fimmaking as well as in his personal life is highlighted.
The new woman in his life after his marriage to actress Anna Karina, Anne Wiazemsky, is portrayed by Stacy Martin. (The screenplay is based in part on Wiazemsky's roman à clef "One Year After.") 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. His restless talent and onslaught of provocative declarations are also seen as his undoing, and in a way he becomes a tragic figure unable to relate well to anyone but himself, and even then he is filled with contradictions.
“Redoubtable” rises to the level of an extremely important achievement as a work that defines Godard, who is so important in any survey of French cinema. Hazanavicious merits applause for this achievement, a milestone in his career. “Redoubtable” is an illuminating and entertaining film that should be seen by anyone interested in Godard and French film, ss well as the world of cinema itself. A Cohen Media Group release. Reviewed October 7, 2017.