Redoubtable: Woody Allen’s Carry On Up the Godard

Review: Utterly trivial, occasionally disrespectful and hugely amusing

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Director: Michel Hazanavicius
Cert: Club
Genre: Comedy
Starring: Louis Garrel, Stacy Martin, Bérénice Bejo, Micha Lescot, Grégory Gadebois, Jean-Pierre Mocky, Marc Brun Adryan
Running Time: 1 hr 47 mins

In the year since Michel Hazanavicius’s skewering of Jean-Luc Godard premiered to some acclaim at Cannes, critical attitudes have been hardening against it.

In one respect, the picture does deserve censure. The director has used a memoir by Anne Wiazemsky, married to Godard for 12 years, as his source and has made little effort to give that actor, novelist and intellectual a life of her own. There is perhaps a buried notion that Godard, never a convincing feminist, is himself to blame for the sidelining, but Wiazemsky, who died last October, deserved a better monument.

Suggestions that Hazanavicius's film trivialises Godard and his work are not so much wrong as irrelevant. It transpires that the director of The Artist, known first in France for spy spoofs, has returned to his original taste for broad pastiche. Redoutable is utterly trivial, occasionally disrespectful and hugely amusing.

One might reasonably describe it as Woody Allen's Carry on up the Godard. The director's key tropes – misleading subtitles, harsh optical shifts, bold political slogans – are played largely for laughs. In a cheeky nod to Allen's Stardust Memories, Hazanavicius has fans constantly approach the director and, after declaring their enthusiasm, wonder when he will return to his early funny films.


We are essentially taken through Godard's 1968. Played with manic, fretful unease by Louis Garrel, the great director, sprung forwards from the Nouvelle Vague, is now facing up to middle-age. "Mozart died at 35 and he was right," he says. "In a few months, I'll turn 37."

The casualness with which he places his name beside that of Mozart is typical of this egotistical version of Godard. Wiazemsky (Stacy Martin) sighs tolerantly as he directs her in the "difficult" La Chinoise. He can live with rejection by the critics. Rejection by the Chinese Communist Party hits him harder.

It's carried off with an irreverence that would delight Mel Brooks. Yet Hazanavicius is stuck with a limited demographic: those who recognise the tropes of Jean-Luc Godard while feeling comfortable with jibes at the great man's expense. There are such people.

J'ai ri comme un drain.

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke, a contributor to The Irish Times, is Chief Film Correspondent and a regular columnist