Alfred Hitchcock never copped a Best Director Academy Award in-competition. Neither did Stanley Kubrick. Nor Howard Hawks, Orson Welles, Robert Altman-- not to mention Fellini, Bergman, Kurosawa. But Michel Hazanavicius did win as Best Director. This was in 2011, for THE ARTIST. His latest film, which has just opened theatrically here in the U.S., offers a point-of-view about another legendary filmmaker who never won an in-competition Oscar. That would be Jean-Luc Godard.
This new film is titled GODARD MON AMOUR. And one easily can predict that Hazanavicius will not be up for any award of any kind at the next Oscars. This is not to say that GODARD MON AMOUR is a disappointment. Far from it. But simply-put, it is not Oscar-quality. Yet it is, at its most profound, a thoughtful portrait of an artist who wins great success with his work and then abandons that success.
GODARD MON AMOUR is set in the mid-1960’s, when the filmmaker was riding atop the international film scene. BREATHLESS, his now-legendary feature, had opened, and he was venerated for his influence on the French New Wave. However, Hazanavicius presents him as a self-absorbed intellectual who is in the process of being radicalized. Here, Godard declares publicly that his early films, including BREATHLESS, are tripe. Plus, he is transforming himself into a Maoist, a devotee of the working class. Yet at his core, he is an elitist-- plain and simple.
Jean-Luc Godard is not the lone major character in GODARD MON AMOUR. He shares the spotlight with Anne Wiazemsky, who is the granddaughter of Francois Mauriac, the French novelist. In GODARD MON AMOUR, the actress is all of 19 years old. Godard is 37. History tells us that she starred or appeared in a few of Godard’s 1960’s films. The two were wed in 1967 and divorced twelve years later. And in GODARD MON AMOUR, the filmmaker lords it over his girlfriend-turned-wife, no matter how much she loves him. At the start, she is pretty much of a young, inexperienced kid. During the course of the story, she grows and gains a certain level of independence.
But back to Jean-Luc... Now sure, he may be a theoretician who is impacted by mid-to-late-1960’s world and national events. However, putting his ideas into his everyday life is something else altogether. He is rapidly losing favor with those who recently revered him, and he is convinced that those who prefer his early work are at fault. This disdain is their problem, and not his. This is Hazanavicius’s view of Godard.
Finally, a pair of trivia notes... I saw GODARD MON AMOUR last September at the Toronto Film Festival under a different title, the English translation of which is REDOUBTABLE. Much of the film is based on Anne Wiazemsky’s memoir and, barely weeks after the screening, word came that Anne Wiazemsky had passed away at age 70. Meanwhile, Godard eventually did win an Honorary Academy Award, in 2011. His prize was “For passion. For confrontation. For a new kind of cinema.” Not surprisingly, he was not present to pick up his Oscar.
Rob Edelman teaches film history courses at the University at Albany. He has contributed to many arts and baseball-related publications; his latest book, which he co-edited, is From Spring Training To Screen Test: Baseball Players Turned Actors. His frequent collaborator is his wife, fellow WAMC film commentator Audrey Kupferberg.
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