Godard Mon Amour is an unflattering portrait of a legendary French director: EW Review
Godard Mon Amour
For film buffs and cinemaniacs, the name Jean-Luc Godard is almost holy. The pioneering New Wave director who exploded onto the international scene with 1960’s Breathless (quickly followed by such art-house classics as Contempt, Band of Outsiders, and Pierrot le Fou) was a bomb-thrower from day one. A former film critic, he toyed with Hollywood themes and conventions, taking them past the point of homage to reinvention. Now in his eighties, Godard’s films could be (and some would argue, still are) playful and profound. But in 1968, as student demonstrators took to the streets of Paris, he also became politicized.
Michel Hazanavicius’ new film, Godard Mon Amour, tackles that period in Godard’s life on and off the screen — and does it in a dismissively light-hearted way that I’m sure the auteur himself loathes. The thing is, Hazanavicius is a merry prankster, too. In fact, he’s made a career — not to mention won an Oscar — out of paying tribute to the movies, whether it’s the films of the silent era (The Artist) or the continental spy films of the early ‘60s (OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies). If he loves Godard, though, you wouldn’t know it from this movie.
In the summer of 1968, Godard (played by Louis Garrel) was 37 and riding high. As Godard Mon Amour opens, he’s just completed his latest film, La Chinoise, starring the 19-year-old Anne Wiazemsky (Stacy Martin). The reaction to his airlessly didactic new film is a mix of confusion and disappointment. But he’s in love. And he’s convinced that the world will catch up to this new, more engaged phase of his career once the revolution comes. At first, the newlywed couple is captured in the blissful honeymoon stage of their marriage. It’s the ‘60s in France, so there’s a lot of smoking, eating, and lovemaking. But as Godard becomes more and more involved in the increasingly violent protests outside, their relationship hits the skids. Once a charming genius, he’s now a humorless jerk whose art becomes too strident to entertain the masses.
We’ve all seen plenty of films (with or without subtitles) about selfish male artists who treat the women in their lives poorly. Unfortunately, Godard Mon Amour becomes just another one of them. It paints Godard as a narcissistic monster — even if you can’t help but admire the paint. Garrel is wonderfully dead-on as the director, Martin manages to convey some of the heartache in watching the man you love turn sour, and the undeniably talented Hazanavicius has fun aping the signature flourishes of Godard’s cinematic style. But the movie is frustratingly superficial. It also feels like the work of someone who’s seen too many old Woody Allen films, as Godard is told by protesters how much they like his “earlier films” (Stardust Memories), not to mention the 20-year age difference between him and his wife (Manhattan), and a recurring gag where his glasses keep getting stepped on (Take the Money and Run). What we’re left with is a movie that’s too shallow and glib for Godard lovers and too inside baseball and unsatisfying for the uninitiated. It sure looks great, but I honestly have no idea who it’s for. B-
Godard Mon Amour