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Relationships and revolution highlight “Godard Mon Amour”


French New Wave director Jean-Luc Godard (Louis Garrel) and his wife Anne Wiazemsky (Stacy Martin). (Courtesy of Cohen Media Group)


Blu-ray and DVD; 2017; R for graphic nudity, sexuality, language; streaming via Amazon Video, FandangoNOW, iTunes and Vudu

Best extra: “Conversations from the Quad” with director Michel Hazanavicius and actor Stacy Martin

BEST KNOWN as director of “The Artist,” the 2011 Best Picture Oscar-winning homage to the silent film era, Michel Hazanavicius redirects his focus on Paris in the 1960s.

Hazanavicius, who also wrote the screenplay, bases “Godard Mon Amour” on the memoirs of actress/novelist Anne Wiazemsky. Wiazemsky, who died last year, was the granddaughter of Nobel laureate François Mauriac. She was married to iconic New Wave director Jean-Luc Godard for 12 years. The film covers one year (1967-68) in their relationship, when Paris was on the verge of erupting into a series of worker strikes and student revolts, protesting capitalism, consumerism and imperialism.

Against this backdrop, the relationship between the 37-year-old Godard (Louis Garrel) and 19-year-old Wiazemsky (Stacy Martin) evolves. As cannily portrayed by Garrel, Godard is often shown as a rather comical, albeit tortured genius. There’s a running gag in which his famous prescription sunglasses are knocked off his face and trampled upon, again and again; or when he rails against Anne doing a nude scene in a film, the two of them arguing about it in their apartment, stark naked. Anne’s character tolerates Godard’s mood swings and frustrated struggles to have his avant-garde films taken seriously, instead of being constantly asked when he’ll make more like “Breathless,” and other earlier works.

Jean-Luc Godard and Anne Wiazemsky protest in the streets of Paris.

Director Michel Hazanavicius said, he decided to focus the film on the ending of Wiazemsky's and Godard’s “love story, their conflicts … and their relationship with the revolution occurring at that time.”

But eventually, Godard’s constant complaining and increasing jealousy succeed in driving Anne away. “Godard Mon Amour” may be interpreted as a faint tribute to the now 87-year-old director, appropriating various elements from his previous films and, as such, is often quite entertaining. But whether it will satisfy die-hard Godard aficionados or, on the other extreme, those who aren’t at all familiar with his work, is debatable.

Cohen Media Group presents this Blu-ray, which has a classical grain to it, appropriate to “Godard Mon Amour” having been shot on film (1.85:1 aspect ratio). Details are always sharp and the Godard-esque saturated primary colors pop out nicely, contrasted with the occasional black and white scenes. The DTS-HD audio is very clear, with French dialogue crisp and sound effects realistic. English subtitles are, of course, provided.

The “Quad” interview, by Columbia University film studies professor Richard Peña, is thorough and enjoyable. Hazanavicius notes that Godard “is not my mentor,” in terms of filmmaking, and insists “Godard Mon Amour” is not a biopic. As a “classical director,” Hazanavicius says he has “a lot of respect for what [Godard] did, his trajectory,” and that he “loves Godard’s early works.” As for his films “after 1968 ... I’m a little more confused, like many people!”

Hazanavicius decided to make the film after the chance selection of Wiazemsky’s book to read on a long train trip. He decided to focus on the ending of her and Godard’s “love story, their conflicts … and their relationship with the revolution occurring at that time.” He notes a lot of his ideas for the crowd scenes came from news footage of the students in 1968: “In France, it was a fresh, young … sexy revolution. And no one died!” Godard, adds Hazanavicius, who was born in 1930, was “not in sync with the youth in the ’60s … which was a huge crisis for him.”

Adds Martin, “Godard’s name became something he had no control of … what he wanted to do, and how people were responding, wasn’t what he wanted.” Hazanavicius hopes that his film is seen as “homage to (Godard’s) aesthetic … and shows … respect for who he is.”

— Peggy Earle


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