When certain figures have their respective stories told in the cinema, it is necessary that they receive an equal treatment not only because of their historical importance, but also because of the ideals they defended. For example: using a conventional structure to illustrate the life trajectory of a subject known for his revolutionary character can even be considered a lack of respect. This is also true for the case where a composer's biopic unfolds without musical instants. The Formidable, the new feature film by Michel Hazanavicius, the same as The artist, is a film that understands these requirements perfectly.
Adapted by the director himself from the recently launched autobiography of Anne Wiazemsky, entitled “Un An Aprés”, the script focuses on a specific moment in the filmmaker's career Jean-Luc Godard. Going from the days after the realization of The Chinese until his entry into the Groupe Dziga Vertov, the narrative shows us how the famous director reacted to negative criticisms, his participation in the May 1968 demonstrations, the stupidity with which he dealt with contrary opinions, the feeling of guilt for being bourgeois, the radical ideas about cinema and the relationship he had with his wife and friends.
Very irregular, Hazanavicius' career in French cinema was characterized by the mixture of satirical elements with a kind of indirect homage to cinema. Before The artist, his two main features, 117: An Adventure in Cairo and 117: Rio does not answer anymore, mocked the figure of James Bond and spy movies. In the work that won him the Oscar and the spotlight around the world, he recreated the aesthetics of silent films and, playing with the image of the stars of the time, made fun of Hollywood fame, while recognizing his undeniable charm.
In The Formidable, this is no different. As in previous productions, the filmmaker also establishes a combination of debauchery and reverence. However, there is an aspect that differentiates the film from those of the director's most endeavors, to the point of transforming him into the best of his career: mockery is not just a choice made among so many possible ones, but something fully justified by the personality of the biographer himself . In other words, any conventional or directly honorable approach would be unworthy of a formal and radical political experimenter par excellence like Godard. The only way to respect him, therefore, would be by transforming his image into constant subversion.
Thus, by making one of the creators of Nouvelle Vague a kind of Groucho Marx political, with space for scenes of pure slapstick and physical humor (all involving the famous sunglasses are worth mentioning), Hazanavicius produced the only acceptable work. However, the references do not end there. With an impressive resourcefulness, the director recreates scenes and emulates the main characteristics of the Godardian style. In fact, the director's knowledge of Godard's filmography is impressive. This makes it clear that the material was not foreign to him. On the contrary. It was a project made with care and passion.
Thus, the presence of moments similar to those of the films of the filmmaker's initial phase, the breaks in the fourth wall, brilliant games like the speech of Louis Garrel about the actors saying to the camera anything that the directors ask them to do, the use of beautiful traveling during a wonderful dialogue that took place on a street (this is one of the most expensive cinematographic resources for Godard), the use of signs in front of a black background and captions verbalizing what the characters think always sound dynamic, natural within the established logic and entirely grounded in the scenes in which they take place.
However, Hazanavicius' merits are also present in the most dramatic parts. If the script did not find any reason behind its comic production, it is evident that we would have a good film, however, it would inevitably be empty from a content point of view. By using all these elements to narrate, essentially, a protagonist's journey of self-discovery, the work rises, becoming a dramatically powerful story. In the end, the same intolerance that we thought negatively in Godard is proposed to us, precisely at the moment when we have to choose whether or not to accept the subject for what he is, regardless of his sympathy or charisma.
In this way, ending the dramatic arc in a moving way, The Formidable establishes itself as one of the most efficient and creative biographical clippings in the history of cinema. As this kind of boldness is one of the rarest things to see within a subgenre marked by the simpleton, it is impossible to belittle this achievement of those responsible. Finally, there is no way not to be impressed by this: even through a portrait and indirectly present, Jean-Luc Godard manages to transform, change, revolutionize. In fact, whoever was born to shine, will shine.