The crotchety 86-year-old French film director Jean-Luc Godard heard that this film was being made he said that he thought it was a stupid, stupid idea. Not exactly a glowing recommendation. For fans of the filmmaker this film is a must watch. It is an interesting portrayal of a rather involved and complex man.
Europe 1967 and the French New Wave is the coolest of the cool. The leading cool guy is Jean-Luc Godard (Louis Garrel – Saint Laurent, The Dreamers) and he is a happy man making films and is in love with his second wife, Anne Wiazemsky (Stacy Martin – Nymphomaniac Vol. 1, The Childhood of a Leader). Anne is only 20-years-old, but is under the spell of her 35-year-old husband. She is his muse. He is beginning to make his film La Chinoise. A film when, once released, is not as well received by film goers as his previous ones.
It is now 1968 and the Cannes film festival is cancelled due to the revolution that is going on. Godard and his friends drive to Cannes to cause even more trouble. The more Godard becomes involved in the revolution the more strain is put on Jean-Luc and Anne’s marriage. Despite their growing distance that does not stop Godard from becoming quite jealous. The tension is making him lose his mojo in regards to filmmaking. His films become more and more radical and less and less commercial.
The latest Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist, OSS 117: Cairo – Nest of Spies) film was in Competition at this year’s Cannes and had some high expectations attached to it due to several reasons. One was its director. His last film, The Artist, won five Oscars and the subject of the film being Jean-Luc Godard. He is a French film icon and really revered in his native country. Hazanavicius has once again demonstrated himself a skilled portrayer of classic cinema. Probably because when he does it it is with veneration and regard. Though he still manages to realistically shine the spotlight on the conflict that usually happens behind the scenes of the making of art.
For the most part this is a light romantic comedy. Some might not appreciate this reductive avenue Hazanavicius takes. There are plenty of scenes of the romance between the two lovers. At times even Godard seems fun and goofy. It definitely veers into the guilty pleasure domain. Though if you really settle into it and make an effort you discover that the bright colours and seemingly happy story really just act as a mask of its dark heart. The story is, in truth, rather dark.
The director and screenwriter is aided immensely in his endeavour by his leading man, Louis Garrel (The Dreamers, Saint Laurent). The note-perfect arrogance he infuses the filmmaker with during this time of the breakdown of his marriage to Anne never becomes unbelievable nor makes the man totally unlikable. Garrel totally disappears into the skin of the man he is portraying.
The film is also a perfect capsule of the time. Plenty of attention has been paid to the colourful details of the late 60s. You also get to see a period which was quite important in the history of film. Things were a changin’. There are also plenty of nods and winks in the direction of Godard’s film like black and white sequences and negative imagery.