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Stacy Martin (#110 of 3)

Cannes Film Festival 2017 Michel Hazanavicius’s Redoubtable

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Cannes Film Review: Redoubtable

StudioCanal

Cannes Film Review: Redoubtable

Michel Hazanavicius never has trouble coming up with bad ideas, and turning the romantic life of Jean-Luc Godard into a screwball comedy will be hard for him to beat. One good thing comes out of this, at least in part: the casting of Louis Garrel as the Nouvelle Vague pioneer. His is a credible on-screen representation of JLG, though less because of the actor’s performance than his look, which incorporates a falsified receding hairline and a pair of dark eyeglasses. But each time Garrel’s pop facsimile deviates from that look, especially when he takes off those shades, the illusion is instantly broken.

The comedic action is superficially entertaining at the start, with Garrel lisping his way through a self-aware imitation of Godard and Hazanavicius playfully stitching together scenes of marital discord and sociopolitical bickering with brisk editing rhythms and rapid-fire dialogue. But as that effort continues to reduce the bold ideas and philosophies of Godard’s “revolutionary” period—as well as the toll his ideologies took on his personal and professional relationships—into fodder for dopey, simple-minded parody, Hazanavicius once again outs himself as a shallow opportunist, and Redoubtable as another empty exercise in borrowed style.

Berlinale 2014 Nymphomaniac: Volume I

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Berlinale 2014: Nymphomaniac: Volume I
Berlinale 2014: Nymphomaniac: Volume I

The first half of Lars von Trier’s probable masterpiece, Nymphomaniac, arrives on eddies of a “playful” publicity campaign that threatened to flatten the licentiousness (and even the straight-up sexiness) of the subject matter into a string of dopey gags. A series of posters featuring ASCII-rendered genitalia and photos capturing its international cast mid-coitus, were mischievous in a way consistent with von Trier’s own smirking, ludic impishness—the pranksterish postures that ignite even his worst and most boring work.

At the risk of whittling one of the most thorny, interesting, and exasperating of living filmmakers down to a single problem, the central concern (for me, at least) with von Trier and his films is that this playfulness rather easily teeters into boring didacticism. His button-pushing provocations—both in terms of his films’ frequently controversial material (rape, depression, mental retardation, racism, more rape) and the ideas (or discernible whiffs of ideas) that drive them—become needling and banal.

It’s like we’re constantly asked to take for granted that von Trier is playing his own devil’s advocate, putting across visions of nihilistic reckoning, sneering at the feeble human soul’s instinctual gravitation toward corruptibility and self-pollution, while simultaneously being asked to believe that he somehow believes the opposite. He angers and riles us and ignites the passion and intellect, while not really meaning any of it, off in the corner with that shit-eating grin on his face offered up as some mawkish mea culpa. He’s like Gabbo on The Simpsons, bashfully offering little else in his own defense beyond, basically, “I’m a bad widdle boy.” It’s infuriating. And much more so because it’s meant to be exactly that.