During the making of one of his films, French film director Jean-Luc Godard falls in love with 17-year old actress Anne Wiazemsky and later get married.
Starring: Louis Garrel, Stacy Martin, Bérénice Bejo
We’ve been disturbed a little bit…re-routing our tours with the roads closed down..and we love it! The film crew from Les Compagnons du Cinéma’s Redoutable have taken to the streets of Paris this August 2016. Luckily for them, there aren’t a lot of Parisians and unfortunately for us in the tourism sector, there aren’t a lot of tourists either. In August, its easy to have the impression that ‘Paris est à nous’ (that Paris belongs to us)…no traffic jams, empty roads, no fighting over coveted spots on sun-drenched terraces…enter stage left: Redoutable.
Academy Award Winning Director of The Artist and Parisian Director Michel Hazanavicius, who won an academy award for The Artist and brought 0SS 117 (the beloved French James Bond spoofs) to life, takes on his toughest subject matter yet: a movie about Jean-Luc Godard. Taking on such a well-loved French icon is a brave endeavor and critics are already beginning to circle, pre-emptying the film’s release. But hey, with a film about Jean-Luc Godard and buzz even before filmings wrapped, all publicity can’t hurt. The French may go to see it just to complain that they know more that the director about their hero.
The film is an adaptation from ‘L’année d’après’ (The Year After) by Anne Wiasemski, Godard’s wife of 12 years. Despite the legendary New Wave director’s fame, he prefers his movies to do the talking and rarely gives interviews, so Anne’s book provides a unique insight into the man and motivations behind his work.
Anne already had her acting break with Robert Bresson in Au Hasard Balthazar before Godard literally (excuse the pun) took her breath away! (cliche director/lead actress falling in love and getting married, as Godard had already done with his leading lady Anna Karina in 1961 but that is probably why he cast them both in the first place!).
The pivotal year is 1967 when at only 20, Anne played the starring role in Godard’s film La Chinoise. The film follows 5 bored university students as their discussion of life and politics evolves into a radical assassination plots. This film was influenced by Goddard’s visits to Anne whilst she was a student at Nanterre University in Paris. Although 20 years her senior, these visits picking Anne up in his flashy sports car introduced Godard to her peers along with their rise in student dissatisfaction: with capitalist society at large and their university in general. Indeed, Anne’s character in the film is also a student at Nanterre. His subject matter couldn’t have been more timely as it prophetically foreshadowed the May 1968 riots that erupted the year after the film came out. La Chinoise isn’t his most well-known film and often gets over-looked (until Redoutable cames out), but it was an important film as it marked a turning point in Jean Luc’s films.
La Chinoise film is satirical itself and director Michel Hazanavicius also intends Redoutable to be a comedy in that vain. Though it won’t be easy to make light of a sacred event in French recent liberal history, it is likely if he focuses on the students who were swept up in the events, it just could turn out to be a good portrayal of the time. It is easy to look back in hindsight and give a more serious tone to events that started out, not necessarily jovial, but unencumbered from historical importance later attributed to them. Indeed, in recent interviews, Wiazemsky has the air of a country girl at heart with a humble spirit; in awe and incredulous at finding herself wrapped up in the historical events of May 1968. You would think that if you are going to be writing about your ex-husband, even if you parted amicably, it wouldn’t be a happy fond sort-of memoir! But Anne’s book nicely shows the admiration and the relationship they developed as they would go on to make more films together.
Louis Garrel plays the principal role of Jean Luc Godard. He is already familiar with the student uprisings of the late ’60s, having played alongside Eva Green and Leonardo diCaprio in Bertolucci’s 2003 drama The Dreamers. If you want an introduction to the late-60s student riots, the Dreamers film is a good starting point. Bertolucci himself said that 1968 was about cinema, politics, music, journalism, sex and philosophy dreaming together.
A large part of the filming appropriately took place in the 5th district (otherwise known as the Latin Quarter) which has always been the student district (home of the Sorbonne, Ecole Polytechnique and Rue des Ecoles – ‘School Street’…) and students in France have always been politically active. Every time they feel a new law might infringe civil rights, they don’t hesitate to protest and this was no different in the 60s.
A student protest in Spring 2016 in the Latin Quarter – reminiscent of 1968
Signs went up all over our neighborhood for the new film Redoubtable. The assistant location manager even asked us if they could use our office as their headquarters whilst filming in the 5th…excited would be an understatement! But alas, they ended up using big trailers as their base 🙁 A big 60s-style bus rolled in, complete with fake silhouettes framing the windows to look as if it was full of people. Then there were the vintage cars (my dad would kill me for saying vintage – cool cars from the 1960s time period which wasn’t that long ago!) and extras arrived in crisp suits and swinging mini-skirts taking over the neighbourhood, especially La Parisienne bakery.
It is even more wonderful to see filming back on the streets of Paris. With the current tense climate and as long as Paris remains on high red alert Vigipirate, there has been a ban on filming action scenes and especially police chases in high profile public spaces scenes. The filmmakers could have stretched their 11 million euro budget to film in Belgium, where extras are 4 times less expensive than in Paris. But for Michel, it was important to film at the heart of just where these events took place…his admiration for Godard and interest in this time period, it would almost be a disservice to film outside his capital: to make a film about Jean Luc Godard removed from Paris would be a crying shame. Over 500 extras on the streets of Paris. Mission Cinema is insisting that with over 100 films being shot this summer, Brad Pitt returning.
Authorities are concerned actors filming in police or army uniforms could be mistakenly targeted by terrorists. Michel however has praised the authorities in help.
Several productions have already been disrupted – including one called Flics Tout Simplement (Simply Cops) which was supposed to have a scene with a police officer outside a school. Scenes with religious sites or schools, both protected under the emergency security plans, are banned.
“Yes, we were meant to film this scene. But it wasn’t allowed. Of course, we have to respect the new rules, and we changed the production plan,” said the film unit director Stephan Guillemet.
Re-creating the riots on the Parisian streets for Redoutable
As the film follows the making of his film La Chinoise in 1967 and his budding romance with Anne, it concurs why they choose the Chinese restaurant right down the road from us. Of course, we couldn’t help sneak a peak during filming. But in French, “Chinoise” can also mean a kind of nonsense: “c’est du chinois” = “it’s all Greek to me”; “chinoiserie” = “unnecessary complication”. Godard, an inveterate punster, sabotages the didactic thrust of the dialogue with a playfulness alien to its declaimers.
Our local Chinese restaurant on Rue Bièvre
Pour reprendre une phrase de Truffaut, je n’ai pas dit toute la vérité, mais je n’ai dit que des choses vraies – et c’est aussi valable pour les sentiments que pour la révolution !
«Je ne dirais pas toute la vérité sur les tournages mais je ne dirais que des choses vraies», François Truffaut, Avant-propos du scénario de La Nuit américaine, Seghers, Paris, 1974.
If you’d like to read further:
Louis Garrel as Godard
Stacy Martin playing Wiazemsky outside our local tabac
Louis Garrel as Godard
Stacy Martin playing Wiazemsky outside our local tabac
Filming at Quai Henri IV