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Godard Mon Amour

by Kilian Melloy
Tuesday Apr 24, 2018
'Godard Mon Amour'
'Godard Mon Amour'  

Airless, hermetic, submerged, and essentially a world unto itself as it slides through the darkness: That's one way to think of a submarine, and, when used as it is here as a metaphor for the creative mind and its intimate relationships, a peculiarly free-ranging and yet isolated mode of existence.

From its opening moments, "Godard Mon Amour" makes reference to this metaphor, calling back time and again to a just-launched French submarine dubbed the Redoubtable. It's a good name for both boat and film (and indeed, the original French title is "Le Redoubtable"): Not a scene goes by when you don't question Godard's sanity, his sincerity, or his fitness to comment on political and artistic matters he doesn't much seem to grasp - all of which leads one to wonder to what extent the character of Godard in this Michel Hazanavicius-directed and written movie is intended to be a faithful reflection of the man himself, and how much this cinematic depiction is (like Godard's comments on his own personality and public persona) a creation fit for dramatic reinvention, if not outright assassination.

So, what to make of "Godard Mon Amour?" Is this film a sort of assassination of the great filmmaker. or at least of a public image about him? Perhaps; the fact that the film is adapted from a novel by Godard's wife Anne Wiazemsky certainly teases the possibility that we're being given an insider's look at the man, his mind, and what life with him was like. It's also possible, of course, that both novel and film are merely having us on, hooking us with things we know (or think we do) about Godard's fascination with Marxism, Mao, and revolution as a form of artistic evolution as well as political act.

We begin with the end of production on Godard's film "La Chinoise," starring Anne (Stacy Martin), and follow Godard and Anne as they fall in love and marry. Then we sit, appalled and intrigued, as their marriage sours, with Godard's inept rages and rants propelling him from one awkward embarrassment to another. Along the way we're invited to contemplate, as Godard does, the role of destruction in the creative endeavor, and to observe as his tangled strains of arrogance and insecurity form an inescapable net around him (surely not a good thing in a comedic movie that takes a marine theme as its central analogy).

But the relationship stuff and the mushy philosophizing are only one level. Jokes and absurdities pepper the film, from a recurring gag in which Godard's eyeglasses keep getting smashed during student protests to the way the filmmaker participates in provocative crowds, movie camera in hand, only to run in terror once he's helped summon forth the chaos he's been hoping to capture on film. Later on we see Godard make a fool of himself in spectacular fashion while speaking publicly; get into a fistfight at a party; and launch a relentless argument during an 800 kilometer drive to Paris in the midst of a general strike (he was lucky to find himself among people with the resourcefulness to secure that much gasoline, and luckier they proved supernaturally patient with his acerbic outbursts).

The film boasts any number of Godard-like flourishes: Gunshots punctuate the soundtrack at one passage, while the images of another sequence bounce from color to reversed black and white. Elsewhere, subtitles offer a prickly translation of a mundane conversation over breakfast. In one of the movie's funniest scenes, Godard and Anne discuss the propensity of some directors to insist on nude scenes... as they parade around their flat in full-frontal glory. More subtly, the camera glides along Anne's outstretched form as she relaxes in the sun at the seaside home of friends, even as Godard's voice issues from the radio to condemn tracking shots. (In keeping with Godard as we see him here, he later defends tracking shots against the complaints of a crew of non-professional actors as he dabbles in so-called Dziga-Vertov filmmaking, sort of a precursor to Dogma 95.)

But back to the original question. What to make of this flick? Paradoxical, self-abnegating, smacking of both sullied biography and ironic farce, "Godard Mon Amour" is, in a way, the perfect biopic of its titular subject. It may be a disservice to the film to try to categorize or label it. Let it frustrate and amuse you - nothing more than that - and you'll have done as Hazanavicius asks.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


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