“Godard Mon Amour”

How will an 87 year-old icon of French New Wave Cinema feel about his mid-life crisis shared as a farce with the world ? Hopefully, he will laugh and cry and feel one with man. For Jean-Luc Godard is put out there in all his dastardly fumbles, as only an ex-wife can do. Based on the late Anne Wiazemsky’s  memoirs of filming “La Chinoise” ( 1967), “ Un An Apres” ( 2015) on which “ Godard Mon Amour” is based, chronicles her life with Godard at this time. We see him in all his narcissism and exasperating egotism.

The politics of shutting down the Cannes Film Festival in solidarity with student protestors, the break with other film giants like Francoise Truffaut and  Bernardo Bertolucci, the forming of the Dziga Vertov Group are all covered.

Pretentiousness and joyless jerkdom are here, but so is youth and the gradual disintegration of a marriage which may have understood love, but never understood the will that must balance it.

Director Michael Hazanavicius, Oscar-winning director of “The Artist”, originally titled his newest film                   “Redoubtable”. Jean-Luc Godard is the formidable international iconoclast whom now Hazanavicius “destroys”, all the while copying and giving homage to Godard’s great innovative style. What fun! At least for a director competing with an international, cinematic legend.

Comic/Tragic, “ Godard Mon Amour” is divided by snarky subtitles: though light and flippant in tone. The narrator is Wiazemsky. These are her biographical memories of her older husband, 38 to her 19, lose his confidence and ignore his wifely muse. He is jealous and literally myopic. One running gag is his constant loss or breakage of his glasses.

Godard is often scathing in his remarks to his admirers. At one point he admonishes a fan by calling him “ an annoying zombie”. Though Godard is a committed Marxist, he is shown as unhappy having to share a car with five friends. Creature comforts seem to supersede his ideology. The car ride back from  Cannes to Paris combines a screaming match with pouting silences. The music is perfect. Sometimes the sound track is stuck like they are. Complex sound-scapes are a hallmark of Jean-Luc, too.

One scene of anarchy during the  student riots some fifty-years-ago, plays like gladiators on display. Jazz and waltz tempos disrespect the rock-throwing and flames of conscientious objectors. Likewise, the film tries to make Godard something of a cliche as an artist of a certain temperament. Yet, his work still leaves us breathless.

Louis Garrel and Stacy Martin star. Both  tumble along beautifully. There are funny sex scenes and plenty of French comfort with full-frontal nudity. The fragility of relationships is a sub-theme, just like in most of Godard films. Goddard’s  innovations like the shot-reverse-shot, the transfer of segments of film back to negatives, and a fragmented, spontaneity in form are all given homage by  director Hazanavicius.

At one point, in this no-straight forward narrative, the Italian great, Bertolucci, derides his friend Goddard: “ You insult your own masterpieces!” And Anne’s voiceover states, “Our horizon began to shrink.”  “ I loved him as long as I could.”

Wiazemsky died in 2017 of breast cancer. She was the grand-daughter of the Noble Prize in Literature ( 1952) recipient, Francoise Mauriac.