Sunday, August 7, 2011

Two in the Wave

Two in the Wave

I don’t know why Two in the Wave bothered me, but it did. Perhaps I’ve just seen too many masculinist-oriented films lately. Howl, whose animation sequences drove me crazy. Tree of Life, Terence Malick’s religious epic, whose politics I found deeply suspect. And now Two in the Wave, which drove me to make a big bowl of popcorn, drink a rum screwdriver and sit up late to watch Saturday Night Live.

Perhaps it’s because the film didn’t seem to know what it wanted to do. Ostensibly about the friendship-turned-rivalry between Jean Luc Godard and François Truffaut, the film seemed scattered—part of it about the New Wave itself, and part of it about Cahiers du cinéema. And while it did cover the friendship between the two men, the rivalry and resulting rift got short shrift, it seemed to me. Anyone truly interested in that promised aspect of Two in the Wave would do well to read Richard Brody’s 2008 New Yorker essay, “Auteur Wars,” an essay I found to be both more informative and enjoyable than this film.

The part of Two in the Wave that did move me was the section devoted to Jean-Pierre Léaud who moved back and forth between Truffaut and Godard’s films and, in a sense, between the directors themselves. It was Godard’s letter to Léaud which finally drove Truffaut to write his final break-up letter to JLG. And Léaud who truly did grow up in “the wave” seems to me to be the victim of the piece. The sequences of the film that quote him directly are truly poignant, as he talks about trying to figure out who he himself was while playing Truffaut’s alter-ego. And as he discusses the difficulty he faced as an actor (one who in a sense embodied new wave-ness) shuttling back and forth between the professional and artistic expectations of two distinctly different founding fathers of the vague. I kept wanting more of the child-caught-between-warring-parents story, and perhaps more also or more explicitly about the homosocial triangle that formed. This is Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s argument (the one she makes in Between Men) with a new twist—this time instead of two straight men homoerotically bonding through and over the body of a woman, they bond (and quarrel and break up) over and through the body of the New Wave’s most famous teen-man boy-star.

As always with these kinds of bio-doc films, the clips are great. But if you watch and if you’re like me, keep that bottle of rum handy.

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