Louis Garrel is well-cast as French New Wave icon and legendary filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard in Godard Mon Amour (France, 2017). Directed by Michael Hazanavicius (The Artist), it’s based on the autobiographical novel of Anne Wiazemsky, Godard’s wife and muse in the last half of the 1960s, and is more about the man behind the artist as seen by his dewy, bubbly young wife (Stacy Martin), a woman almost 20 years his junior.
Godard Mon Amour, which covers the period when Godard moved into more aggressively political subjects and struggled to challenge the traditional conventions of filmmaking with a meaningful revolutionary alternative, is a conundrum for a fan of Godard. Then again, Godard is something of conundrum himself: a self-conscious cinematic genius who cut ties with old friends for failing to be revolutionary, a political filmmaker whose treatment of women on screen ranged from the admirable to the exploitative, an outsider in France who embraced oppressed people around the world yet has a history of troubling anti-Semitic remarks. He could also be quite the asshole, something this film takes on directly.
Hazanavicius is a talented cinematic mimic who is adept at the art of parody and pastiche. It may be about Godard (and in many ways the culture of rebellion boiling over around him) but Hazanavicius appropriates Godardian techniques (as well as references to Andrzej Wajda, Ingmar Bergman, and Woody Allen) for a film closer to the whimsy and playfulness of Francois Truffaut. He finds humor in Godard’s contradictions and his desperation to be taken seriously by the young students leading the May 1968 protests and he brings an irreverent quality to the portrait.
What he’s not is a deep thinker or a cinematic firebrand so when he evokes the surface qualities of Godard, it’s often hollow, without any real meaning behind it. For a film about a passionate artist and an aspiring political filmmaker struggling to challenge the bourgeois modes of filmmaking with a meaningful revolutionary alternative, it fails to connect with his struggle or even his art.
Given that, it’s refreshing to see a film that confronts Godard’s bad behavior, his attraction to much younger women, his pathological jealousy, and the way he belittles Anne (much like he treated his former wife and previous muse, Anna Karina).
The original French release was titled Redoutable, the name of a submarine in a radio documentary we hear at one point on the soundtrack: “Life is tough on the Redoutable.” Both Godard and Wiazemsky reference it in conversation and life indeed becomes very difficult on this relation-ship.
Bérénice Bejo costars.
In French with English subtitles
Also on Blu-ray and DVD and on SVOD through Amazon Video, iTunes, GooglePlay, Vudu and/or other services. Availability may vary by service.
The DVD and Blu-ray releases feature bonus filmmaker and actor interviews