Michel Hazanavicius’s exploration of Jean-Luc Godard’s immersion in radical politics is constructed as a giddy homage to Godardian affectation. That’s no surprise: He’d recreated candy-colored spy spoofs in two OSS 117 films and won an Oscar for The Artist, that maudlin reimagining of silent comedies and Hollywood mythmaking. In this affectionate dissection, Hazanavicius undercuts a pompous Godard (Louis Garrel) with little bits of slapstick (repeatedly shattering his trademark eyeglasses) and grand ideological takedowns.
Garrel’s scathing, insightful, and prickly performance details the filmmaker’s midlife crisis, exacerbated by the civil unrest in 1968 France. Godard had married Anne Wiazemsky (Stacy Martin), star of his Maoist love letter La Chinoise, but when the revolution he long desired arrives, the leftist student activists of his young wife’s generation roundly reject him. Although writer-director Hazanavicius based the biopic on Wiazemsky’s memoir, Un An Après (One Year Later), Wiazemsky gets portrayed as a passive observer, a minor character in her own story.
Throughout Godard Mon Amour, the prolific Nouvelle Vague icon is lauded primarily for Breathless and Contempt, with no mention of the seven features he made with former wife Anna Karina. When Wiazemsky steps into those muse’s shoes, she learns to walk a fine line between inspiration and compliance, a relationship more intricate than Hazanavicius’s facile analogy of a long submarine journey (from blissful isolation to suffocating reliance).
Hazanavicius spends more time gazing at Martin’s nubile form than revealing how an adoring, dependent nineteen-year-old — who married an acclaimed, confident artist, then found herself with a petty, insecure man — struggled to establish her own identity. His immersion in Godard’s mind-set results in the erasure of Wiazemsky’s experience.
Godard Mon Amour
Directed by Michel Hazanavicius
Cohen Media Group
Opens April 20, Landmark 57 West
Click here to sign up for our weekly film and TV newsletter.