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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“The sad and painful truth is that pretty much everyone in this town knew who Harvey was. I have had long talks with my most liberal friends. Did we know he was a rapist? We didn’t. But did we know that for decades he has been offering actresses big careers in exchange for sexual favors? Yes, we did — and make no mistake, that is its own kind of rape. And did we all — or did any of us — refuse to do business with him on moral grounds? No. We ALL STAYED IN BUSINESS WITH HIM. I have never done business with Harvey but I can tell you with certainty that I would have — because I was recently approached by a film festival he sponsors. They asked me to submit my short film for their consideration and I did it without thinking twice. I am a dyed-in-the-wool feminist and a vocal one at that. So why didn’t I think twice? Because this entire town is built on the ugly principals that Harvey takes to an horrific extreme. If I didn’t work with people whose behavior I find reprehensible, I wouldn’t have a career.”
~ Showrunner Krista Vernoff

From AMPAS president John Bailey:

Dear Fellow Academy Members,

Danish director Carl Dreyer’s 1928 film “The Passion of Joan of Arc” is not only one of the visual landmarks of the silent era, but is a deeply disturbing portrait of a young woman’s persecution in the face of the male judges and priests of the ruling order. The actress Maria Falconetti gave one of the most profoundly affecting performances in the history of cinema as the Maid of Orleans.

Since the decision of the Academy’s Board of Governors on Saturday October 14 to expel producer Harvey Weinstein from its membership, I have been haunted not only by the recurring image of Falconetti and the sad arc of her career (dying in Argentina in 1946, reputedly from a crash diet) but of Joan’s refusal to submit to an auto de fe recantation of her beliefs.

Recent public testimonies by some of filmdom’s most recognized women regarding sexual intimidation, predation, and physical force is, clearly, a turning point in the film industry—and hopefully in our country, where what happens in the world of movies becomes a marker of societal Zeitgeist. Their decision to stand up against a powerful, abusive male not only parallels the cinema courage of Falconetti’s Joan but gives all women courage to speak up.

After Saturday’s Board of Governors meeting, the Academy issued a passionately worded statement, expressing not only our concern about harassment in the film industry, but our intention to be a strong voice in changing the culture of sexual exploitation in the movie business, already common well before the founding of the Academy 90 years ago. It is up to all of us Academy members to more clearly define for ourselves the parameters of proper conduct, of sexual equality, and respect for our fellow artists throughout our industry. The Academy cannot, and will not, be an inquisitorial court, but we can be part of a larger initiative to define standards of behavior, and to support the vulnerable women and men who may be at personal and career risk because of violations of ethical standards by their peers.

Yours,
John