This cheeky biopic of the French New Wave director Jean-Luc Godard tackles his radical politics and love life in the late 1960s – and it just about works
Here’s the jaunty tribute-band version of one year in the life of the legendary filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard, made by Michel Hazanavicius, the Oscar-winning director of ‘The Artist’, and with actor Louis Garrel sporting a balding wig to play him. The year? 1968, of course, when Paris is flirting with revolution and the revered, infuriatingly self-conscious Godard decides that his previous, popular films, ‘Breathless’, ‘Le Mepris’ and ‘Pierrot Le Fou’, are bourgeois travesties that should be disowned. Paris is burning, and now is the time for radical, collective art inspired by Chairman Mao says Godard to anyone who wants to hear – and plenty who do not.
Hazanavicius’s film is more accessible than Godard’s own anti-entertainment phase. It’s playful with its storytelling in honour of Godard (chapter headings, characters talking to the camera, eccentric edits and colour briefly switching to monochrome negative all pay homage). But mostly this is a period comedy that tries hard to appeal to those who might have never heard of JLG, but would enjoy a portrait of stubborn creativity against the backdrop of 1960s style and sloganeering.
At 38-year-old Godard’s side throughout is his not-very-long-suffering 19-year-old wife, Anne Wiazemsky (Stacy Martin, channelling 1960s French values by taking her clothes off a lot), whose memoir inspired Hazanavicius to make this fun piece of fan art in the first place. She’s loyal to him but increasingly embarrassed and hurt by his abrasive behaviour towards everyone around him. Hazanavicius’s opinion of Godard is easy to summarise: bullish in his artistic independence, but personally a bit of a shit and deluded in his belief that everyone would follow where he led. 'Redoubtable' is often cartoonish but the colourful and modish period look and feel are fun, and a creeping admiration underlines the whole thing. If it turns audiences on to real Godard films, where’s the harm?
Cast and crew