Redoubtable is an adaptation of actor Anne Wiazemsky’s memoir about the years she spent married to notable French Swiss film director Jean-Luc Godard from 1967 to 1979. The title ostensibly comes from the name of a submarine where life was hard for those who voyaged on it but the metaphor is writ large as Godard becomes less and less the man Wiazemsky fell in love with and more and more objectionable. There is significance beyond even this though as like a submarine the movie itself is also buoyant but decidedly unforgiving.
The mixed tone of the film is deftly managed as we smile at the quirks of the famous film maker even as he descends into anger at the state of the then politics in his country. The man presented here is frustrated with the neutered nature of his bourgeois situation and the failure of those around him to stand up against the leadership of de Gaulle and Pompidou. He resents the triviality of his celebrated filmography but can’t move beyond the reputation it has given him. Ironically the man who totally revolutionised European cinema is unable to change people’s idea of him as a certain kind of artist. To some extent this is a film about a film maker but to no real extent is it about film making. This is Godard through a different lens. Even amongst all of this though there it time to find humour in the repeated destruction of his glasses.
Alongside all of this his younger partner demonstrates love, support and patience until she finds she can no longer sustain any of them anymore. Like The Theory of Everything, Redoubtable is a film where the more showy portrayal of a famous man would not work without the strength of the performance of the woman beside him. Actors Louis Garrel and Stacy Martin are both very good.
Great credit also needs to go to director Michel Hazanavicius, known for his Oscar winning film The Artist. As with that movie Hazanavicius demonstrates a delightful knowledge of filmic conventions and plays with them to strong effect. At one point, very obviously but still very cleverly, there is a staged conversation between the leads that discusses nudity in films in a way that simultaneously analyses and trivialises it and almost justifies its own repeated, dare I suggest typically Gallic, forays into this area earlier on. Je dis ça, je dis rien. In another moment the on screen Godard holds a cine camera to head as if it is a gun and it is both a lightly amusing and heavily symbolic gesture.
In my review of Deadpool 2, I suggested that you had to be a particular brand of geek to get all of the references and the same is true here. I am not the right brand of geek to understand everything in Redoubtable. I know a little of French New Wave Cinema but nothing of the historical uprisings and no efforts were made to laboriously explain either. I know enough French to see that the subtitles were not always precise translations so it is possible I missed something here too. It was particularly confusing when subtitles came up anyway to show that what was being said was not what was being meant so non French speaking audiences get two sets of dialogue to read simultaneously. Even in my partial ignorance though I enjoyed and admired the film immensely. Redoubtable is recommended.