Emmanuel Laurent’s film is a passionate look at the two very different personalities and leading lights behind the French new wave movement, Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut. It pulls off the trick of getting up close and personal, and inside their minds, while still remaining distant and retaining that sense of mystique and maybe frustration for the people who knew them. While the project is a slow burn, and difficult to get a handle on, in places, it proves one of the most exciting and rewarding documentaries’, of the year so far.
The early section takes a look at their years growing up in France, the key moments that turned Godard and Truffaut onto film making, as well as their work as film critics leading them to meet some of their ideas, and to the start of them as directors. As the film moves onto some of the early works in the New Wave, along with some of the other major filmmakers involved, we get some classic sit down footage from each. Both giving in depth back ground into the films that inspired them, as well as the reaction at the time to these experiments. All these elements are seamlessly blended together, with the excellent research and the tension, the film has a cool, dry air of mystique with a subtle and striking use of music, almost like a classic film noir in documentary form.
All this builds to the breakdown of the friendship over a political dispute surrounding the French riots of the sixties, with both questioning each other’s agenda as well as clashing over one another’s work. Both sides of the argument are given their place, and the film is finely balanced from this point of view, allowing us to draw our own conclusions. It is also fair to point out that while focusing on the charming and charismatic aspects of both, Laurent also gives an account of how difficult, and cut off both could be.
So what you end up with is a vivid portrait celebrating film lovers as obsessive nerds, which starts off as a fairly standard montage of talking heads, interviews and pictures before developing into a far more dramatic thriller. For aspiring directors and film critics it will prove a tour de force in film studies and truly inspiration, for others it might be a bit of a struggle and sometimes feel a little too cold. Returning to the heart of the film, it strikes me as a beautiful love letter to those who spend hours of their lives sitting in the dark, watching the strange shadows sometimes alone.
Director: Emmanuel Laurent
Stars: Anouk Aimée, Jean-Pierre Aumont, Charles Aznavour
Runtime: 91 min