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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“With any character, the way I think about it is, you have the role on the page, you have the vision of the director and you have your life experience… I thought it was one of the foundations of the role for John Wick. I love his grief. For the character and in life, it’s about the love of the person you’re grieving for, and any time you can keep company with that fire, it is warm. I absolutely relate to that, and I don’t think you ever work through it. Grief and loss, those are things that don’t ever go away. They stay with you.”
~ Keanu Reeves

“I was checking through stuff the other day for technical reasons. I came across The Duellists on Netflix and I was absolutely stunned to see that it was exquisitely graded. So, while I rarely look up my old stuff, I stopped to give it ten minutes. Bugger me, I was there for two hours. I was really fucking pleased with what it was and how the engine still worked within the equation and that engine was the insanity and stupidity of war. War between two men, in that case, who fight on thought they both eventually can’t remember the reason why. It was great, yeah. The great thing about these platforms now is that, one way or another, they’ll seek out and then put out the best possible form and the long form. Frequently, films get cut down because of that curse in which the studio felt or feels that they have to preview. And there’s nothing worse than a preview to diminish the original intent.Oh, yeah, how about every fucking time? And I’ve stewed about films later even more because when you tell the same joke 20 times the joke’s no longer funny. When you tell a bad joke once or twice? It’s fine. But come on, now. Here’s the key on the way I feel when I approach the movie: I try to keep myself as withdrawn from the project as possible once I’ve filmed it. And – this is all key on this – then getting a really excellent editor so I never have to sit in on editing. What happens if you sit in is you become stale and every passage or joke, metaphorically speaking, gets more and more tired. You start cutting it all back because of fatigue. So what you have to do is keep your distance and therefore, in a funny kind of way, you, as the director, should be the preview and that’s it.”
~ Sir Ridley Scott