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Two in the Wave
Time Out New York Project: Issue #764, May 20–26, 2010
Dir. Emmanuel Laurent. 2009. N/R. 91mins. In French, with subtitles. Documentary.
Emmanuel Laurent’s documentary on the tumultuous friendship between critic-filmmakers Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut hardly rates as a DVD special feature. A dry collection of archival interviews and other materials traces these two leading lights of the French New Wave from their first meeting to their poisonous breakup-par-lettre. Laurent mimics some of the duo’s stylistic affects: An ongoing voiceover, spoken by film critic Antoine de Baecque, is very Godardian in its erudite discursiveness. And several modern-day scenes of actress Isild Le Besco—reading back-issues of Cahiers du cinéma and wandering wistfully past the Paris Cinémathèque—are an embodiment of Truffaut’s principle that, to make a successful movie, one need only film the face of a pretty woman.
Not in this case, though. Laurent knows the facts of his subject, but he loses the emotional thread amid all the flimsy homage. Only a quick-cut montage of the directors’ frequently shared performer Jean-Pierre Léaud (best known as Truffaut’s onscreen alter-ego Antoine Doinel) truly resonates, as a collection of film clips show him aging from a scrappy teenage boy to a haunted older man and back again. Otherwise the film blows up a minor aspect of the New Wave to foolishly apocalyptic proportions, substituting gossip for gospel.—Keith Uhlich