This plodding, occasionally insufferable biopic follows vanguard filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard during the years 1967 and 1968.
Michel Hazanavicius’ Oscar-winning film The Artist (2011) paid homage to the era of silent cinema with an act of ventriloquism, a strange if tepid mixture of Hollywood fellatio and pleasant, often delightful escapism. If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “Wow, I’d love to see this same gimmick again, but this time with the French New Wave,” then you’ll be thrilled with Godard Mon Amour, the director’s latest. This plodding, occasionally insufferable biopic follows vanguard filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard (Louis Garrel) during the years 1967 and 1968.
The shooting of Godard’s political work, La Chinoise, his courtship and marriage to Anne Wiazemsky (Stacy Martin), the radical politics that escalated into revolutionary riots in May 1968—it’s all covered in Godard Mon Amour, yet the film still feels overwhelmingly empty in execution. Perhaps this is because it’s hard to focus on the storytelling when it’s oversaturated with the director honoring his influences the only way he knows how: mimicry. You could argue he’s the French Tarantino in this regard, but Haznavicus adds nothing new as he steals and revises cinematic history for his own marginally creative purposes.
Godard Mon Amour feels like hollow karaoke, with Hazanavicius peppering in tiny (yet overbearing) nods to Godard’s filmography, cinematic techniques and unorthodox method of storytelling. Sure, it’s shot on 35mm and crafted to look like a Godard film of yesteryear, but you need more than an aesthetic echo for the film to truly make an impression. Like The Artist, this film aims to make its audience fondly recollect the cinema of the past, yet it feels so artistically vacant that it’s practically invisible. Admittedly, Louis Garrel and Stacy Martin give passionate lead performances that transcend the material in ephemeral doses, but everything surrounding them in the film makes their efforts feel more and more artificial.
When Godard Mon Amour does deviate from its calculated mirroring, it becomes far more interesting, especially in a latter half which digs deeper into the political revolution of Paris in May 1968. But it doesn’t dig deep enough, creating a shallow grave for the film to eventually bury itself in. Hazanavicius’ work feels like it’s constantly skirting the line between something with the potential for brilliance and a film that feels so much like parody it’s hard to take seriously. There’s some fun to be had as the film plays with the absurdities of Godard’s ego, and it’s pretty to see its use of colors and framing to impersonate the work of its subject, but all this ultimately feels like caricature.
Godard himself called the film “a stupid, stupid idea,” and the film proudly displayed that quote on its promotional poster. Despite this arrogance, however, it doesn’t escape the fact that Godard was absolutely right. Godard Mon Amour brings a lot of enthusiasm to the table, but there’s almost nothing else to chew on here aside from Hazanavicius’ blatant passion for the project. There’s nothing wrong with honoring your influences or even stealing from them, but you need to have a purpose for doing so. This is a work that is constantly in pursuit of such purpose. It periodically finds what it’s looking for, yet consistently loses itself along the way.