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 suddenly couldn’t say anything about some of the movies. They were just so terrible, and I’d already written about so many terrible movies. I love writing about movies when I can discover something in them – when I can get something out of them that I can share with people. The week I quit, I hadn’t planned on it. But I wrote up a couple of movies, and I read what I’d written, and it was just incredibly depressing. I thought, I’ve got nothing to share from this. One of them was of that movie with Woody Allen and Bette Midler, Scenes From a Mall. I couldn’t write another bad review of Bette Midler. I thought she was so brilliant, and when I saw her in that terrible production of ‘Gypsy’ on television, my heart sank. And I’d already panned her in Beaches. How can you go on panning people in picture after picture when you know they were great just a few years before? You have so much emotional investment in praising people that when you have to pan the same people a few years later, it tears your spirits apart.”
~ Pauline Kael On Quitting

“My father was a Jerome. My daughter’s middle name is Jerome. But my most vexing and vexed relationship with a Jerome was with Jerome Levitch, the subject of my first book under his stage and screen name, Jerry Lewis.

I have a lot of strong and complex feelings about the man, who passed away today in Las Vegas at age 91. Suffice to say he was a brilliant talent, an immense humanitarian, a difficult boss/interview, and a quixotic sort of genius, as often inspired as insipid, as often tender as caustic.

I wrote all about it in my 1996 book, “King of Comedy,” which is available on Kindle. With all due humility, it’s kinda definitive — the good and the bad — even though it’s two decades old. My favorite review, and one I begged St. Martin’s (unsuccessfully) to put on the paperback jacket, came from “Screw” magazine, which called it “A remarkably fair portrait of a great American asshole.”

Jerry and I met twice while I was working on the book and spoke/wrote to each other perhaps a dozen times. Like many of his relationships with the press and his partners/subordinates, it ended badly, with Jerry hollering profanities at me in the cabin of his yacht in San Diego. I wrote about it in the epilogue to my book, and over the years I’ve had the scene quoted back to me by Steve Martin, Harry Shearer, Paul Provenza and Penn Jillette. Tom Hanks once told me that he had a dinner with Paul Reiser and Martin Short at which Short spent the night imitating Jerry throwing me off the boat.

Jerry was a lot of things: father, husband, chum, businessman, philanthropist, artist, innovator, clown, tyrant. He was at various times in his life the highest-ever-paid performer on TV, in movies, and on Broadway. He raised BILLIONS for charity, invented filmmaking techniques, made perhaps a dozen classic comedies, turned in a terrific dramatic performance in Martin Scorsese’s “The King of Comedy,” and left the world altered and even enhanced with his time and his work in it.

That’s an estimable achievement and one worth pausing to commemorate.

#RIP to Le Roi du Crazy

~ Biographer Shawn Levy on Jerry Lewis on Facebook