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Redoubtable in Cannes: cheeky portrait of a revered filmmaker

Michel Hazanavicius has filmed the most politically radical period of Jean Luc Gordard’s life as a comedy

May 21, 2017 09:17 pm | Updated May 22, 2017 04:22 pm IST - Cannes

Michel Hazanavicius

Michel Hazanavicius

It was in May 1968 that filmmaker Jean Luc Godard, along with directors Louis Malle and Francois Truffaut, coaxed the Cannes Film Festival to be brought to a halt as a mark of solidarity with the students’ protest in Paris.

On Saturday, Michel Hazanavicius’ Le Redoutable on the same phase in Godard’s life was delayed by about an hour at the festival due to security concerns at the Salle Debussy theatre lending an additional unintended layer of irony to the viewing of the film.

Hazanavicius treats Godard with a cheeky, straight-faced irreverence than putting him up on the pedestal. Godard himself comes across as the one who shares the filmmaker’s sense of humour —risqué, not always in good taste and often directed at his own self.

An odd combination

Godard is a man oddly charismatic and charming even when he is confrontational, a man with a razor sharp tongue and a man committed to politics, a man preoccupied with Palestine and Che Guevara’s idea of the “inner Vietnam”.

It’s not Godard, the cheerleader of the French New Wave cinema, who we encounter on screen but the one who is being ripped apart for La Chinoise. Here is a man who is cynical of filmmaking itself comparing it to “making love to a dead woman” and who is being whipped for disgracing and negating his own early work.

A man wanting to break away from the past, trying to bring the revolution on the streets to the process of filmmaking as well by embracing the “auto-managed” cinema of the Dziga Vertov school.

Watching the film I also wondered what would have happened if we were to make a film with a similar brazen tone on one of our revered filmmakers.

The impertinence of Hazavanicius may rile many, Godard himself may have called the film a “stupid idea”, but the fact is that it hasn’t just got made but is also in competition for the Palme d’Or in Cannes.

It’s proving to be a good innings at Cannes for Netflix. The reactions may not have been as tremendous as for Okja but its second production in the competition section also walked away with a fair amount of appreciation on Sunday.

Slice of family life

Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories (New And Selected) is a finely wrought slice of family life with a nicely in-tune ensemble. Dustin Hoffman as the pater paterfamilias and Emma Thompson as his current wife are expectedly solid but it’s the children, the half-brothers and half-sister who reach out.

The loser brother Danny (Adam Sandler) and the perennial winner Matthew (Ben Stiller) surprise with their unusually mature and mellow turns as does Elizabeth Marvel as the sister Jean.

It’s a family that is dysfunctional in its normalcy. It’s about the tiny bad things they do to each other — the little regrets and disappointments, the unthinking discrimination amongst kids, the concomitant sibling rivalries — than some devastating, crushing, scarring issue.

The incessant chatter through the film underlines the larger chaos in relationships yet there is an all round warmth and humour that makes it so viewable and easy to connect with.

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