By Jake Howell jake.howell@utoronto.ca

Cannes Reviews: REDOUBTABLE, 120 BPM

REDOUBTABLE

More bourgeoisie than lavish parties and designer clothing stores that line the Croisette is seeing a film about the Cannes Film Festival at the Cannes Film Festival. While its segments on Cannes take up only a relatively small portion of the film, vanity remains a key problem for Redoubtable, Michel Hazanavicius’ inessential, boring study of Jean-Luc Godard’s fraught marriage with Anne Wiazemsky, the actor and writer who starred in many of the director’s films before their divorce in 1979. (The screenplay is adapted from Wiazemsky’s memoir, “Un an apres,” or, “One year later.”)

Both Louis Garrel (Godard) and Stacy Martin (Wiazemsky) deliver competent performances in what is little more than a tedious and repetitive Woody Allen riff, which, chapter-by-chapter, also apes characteristic looks and techniques that Godard pioneered or appropriated. (C’est drôle, right?) But I take issue with the film’s basic telos: It strikes me that the best biographic portrait of Godard—an artist so critical of the form—would be one that was never made in the first place. At the very least, it’s embarrassing in so many ways to think that a film this cautiously dull would be a worthwhile consideration of an auteur so significantly different.

Beyond outlining just how much of an asshole Hazanavicius’ Godard is—including a stupid running joke that seems to suggest the man derives his snobbish power from his sunglasses, which he repeatedly breaks throughout the film—Redoubtable is little more than a series of regrettable decisions that began the moment Hazanavicius started his adaptation.120bpm

Saving face for French cinema is 120 Beats per Minute, Robin Campillo’s compassionate drama about the Paris branch of ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) in the late 1980s.

Directed in an intimately similar style to 2008 Palme winner The Class (for which Campillo wrote the script), 120 BPM’s title may be more than a reference to the scenes of nightclub dancing that break apart the drama—additionally, it could apply to just how quickly this script flies by; intense discourse being one of Campillo’s screenwriting mainstays. To further this pace, Campillo keeps us mostly interior; his locations, like a lecture hall where ACT UP congregates, reverberate his dialogue effectively in his consistently tight framing.

It’s also comprised of strong performances, working in concert for a film less rah-rah than 2014’s Pride, a British crowd-pleasing rabble-rouser on LGBTQ activism that was emotional, certainly, but mostly upbeat. 120 BPM is, on the other hand, more cardiovascular: Given its pulse on HIV, watching splatters of fake blood in ACT UP’s more visual protests—and, for example, the image of a sanguine Seine—result in something urgent and present.

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“I had this friend who was my roommate for a while. She seemed really normal in every way except that she wouldn’t buy shampoo. She would only use my shampoo. And after a year it’s like, “When are you going to buy your own shampoo?” It was her way of digging in her heels. It was a certain sense of entitlement, or a certain anger. It was so interesting to me why she wouldn’t buy her own fucking shampoo. It was like,“I’m gonna use yours.” It was coming from a place of “You have more money than me, I just know it”—whether I did or I didn’t. Or maybe she felt, “You have a better life than me,” or “You have a better room than me in the apartment.” It was hostile. And she was a really close friend! There was never any other shampoo and I knew she was washing her hair. And clearly I have a thing about shampoo, as we see in ‘Friends with Money.’ I had some nice shampoo. So I found that psychologically so interesting how a person can function normally in every way and yet have this aberrance—it’s like a skip in the record. It was a sense of entitlement, I think. I put that in Olivia’s character, too, with her stealing someone’s face cream.”
Nicole Holofcener

“When books become a thing, they can no longer be fine.

“Literary people get mad at Knausgård the same way they get mad at Jonathan Franzen, a writer who, if I’m being honest, might be fine. I’m rarely honest about Jonathan Franzen. He’s an extremely annoying manI have only read bits and pieces of his novels, and while I’ve stopped reading many novels even though they were pretty good or great, I have always stopped reading Jonathan Franzen’s novels because I thought they were aggressively boring and dumb and smug. But why do I think this? I didn’t read him when he was a new interesting writer who wrote a couple of weird books and then hit it big with ‘The Corrections,’ a moment in which I might have picked him up with curiosity and read with an open mind; I only noticed him once, after David Foster Wallace had died, he became the heir apparent for the Great American Novelist position, once he had had that thing with Oprah and started giving interviews in which he said all manner of dumb shit; I only noticed him well after I had been told he was An Important Writer.

“So I can’t and shouldn’t pretend that I am unmoved by the lazily-satisfied gentle arrogance he projects or when he is given license to project it by the has-the-whole-world-gone-crazy development of him being constantly crowned and re-crowned as Is He The Great American Writer. What I really object to is this, and if there’s anything to his writing beyond it, I can’t see it and can’t be bothered. Others read him and tell me he’s actually a good writer—people whose critical instincts I have learned to respect—so I feel sure that he’s probably a perfectly fine, that his books are fine, and that probably even his stupid goddamned bird essays are probably also fine.

“But it’s too late. He has become a thing; he can’t be fine.”
~ Aaron Bady