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La Chinoise (Bilingual)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Anne Wiazemsky, Jean-Pierre Léaud, Juliet Berto, Michel Semeniako, Lex De Bruijn
  • Directors: Jean-Luc Godard
  • Writers: Jean-Luc Godard
  • Format: Color, Dolby, DVD-Video, Restored, Subtitled, NTSC
  • Language: French
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (US and Canada This DVD will probably NOT be viewable in other countries. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • MPAA Rating: UNRATED
  • Studio: eOne Films
  • Release Date: April 6 2010
  • Run Time: 96 minutes
  • ASIN: B0013D8LY0
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #55,072 in DVD (See Top 100 in DVD)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 10 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Brilliant July 8 2008
By Steiner - Published on
Format: DVD
Godard's misunderstood film about a cell of Maoist students in 1967 France is not so much an endorsement of revolutionary politics as it is an exploration of it. Although the film clearly contributed to the revolt at Columbia uprising, and later the student May uprising of 1968, this is in fact a highly nuanced account of the variegated tendencies of radicalization among the French youth. We encounter an outdated renunciation of Marxism-Leninism, which sadly converted large swaths of radicalizing youths to Mao in the 1960's, and still has some resonance on the left today. This is a delightful mixture of politics and pop culture as only Godard can provide, that is, with passion and form.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
not particularly compelling, but worth a look Aug. 7 2008
By Doug Anderson - Published on
Format: DVD
Some of Godards films are consistently entertaining (Breathless, My Life to Live, Band of Outsiders, Alphaville, Weekend, Pierrot Le Fou) while others are less so.

La Chinoise (1967) is smart as all of Godard's works are, but only mildly entertaining. Its content, style of critique, & entertainment value put it on par with Godard's other (and later) meditation on the intersection of pop culture & revolutionary politics, Sympathy for the Devil (1968). Both films deal with revolutionary politics & pop culture & how even radical cells reproduce the dominant culture's patriarchal paradigms.

La Chinoise is the story of a group of middle-class revolutionaries. The leader of this revolutionary troupe is played by a gentrified Jean-Pierre Leaud who, despite his many bourgeois trappings, nonetheless spends every waking hour reading from one revolutionary text or another. While it might be impossible to say exactly how much of this revolutionary talk had gotten to Godard, it is clear (at least at this point in his career) that he can still see both the comic and tragic irony of trying to be both revolutionary & bourgeoisie at the same time. Leaud is not as interesting nor as exciting to watch as Belmondo, but Godard has a lot of fun with this character who is so saturated with revolutionary theory that he is thrilled when one of his comrades gets beaten up by a rival faction because this is proof to him that all of his theorizing and political posturing has some connection to and effect upon reality. Eventually, to underscore Leauds bourgeois narcissism, Godard has him go on a tirade against mere actors while dressed as Napoleon.

Many of the more entertaining sequences involve the "revolutionaries" painting artfully crafted slogans on their dining room walls; Godard dwells on this to emphasize that the aesthetics of revolution are really what turns them on. And, if that is not enough, to emphasize the utter aestheticization and utter unreality of revolution to the insulated bourgeoisie, Godard also has them play with a toy camera that transforms into a toy machine gun. Godard seems to be saying that the revolutionaries do not make any real distinction between playing at being revolutionaries and actually being revolutionaries. For most of them just playing is enough. However, when one of the revolutionaries actually toys with a real gun and begins assassinating political opponents, its then that each of the players has to ask themselves just how seriously they take all of the revolutionary theory they spend their days & nights consuming.

But, before any decision can be made, everything is decided for them as their revolutionary hideout must be abandoned for it was really only on loan to them for the summer. When the bourgeoisie inhabitants of the house return one of them is disgusted at the revolutionary decor and literature that the summer tenants have left behind, but one of them shows at least a passing interest in it (perhaps this is the only clue in the film that something will come of all of the revolutionary's efforts). Its all kind of funny but also all kind of sad that so much youthful idealism has no real outlet in late capitalist society.

The end feeling is that Godard is as ambivalent about these kids (both the revolutionary and the bourgeoisie kids) as we are.

Since Godard himself was not affiliated with any academy or institution or party he was in a unique position to call revolutionary politics as practiced by a certain social group as he saw them. And it is refreshing to see Godard treat marxist & maoist politics with the same iconoclastic style that he brings to everything else that he critiques.

But in 1969 Godard would embrace maoist politics and this affiliation would mark the end of Godard's most interesting phase as an artist.

Politics & aesthetics do not get along very well. Politics reduce humans to collectives and art to propaganda; whereas aesthetics, at their most vital, assert the sovereignty of the individual. Hence the unsatisfying nature of much of Godards late sixties (beginning with La Gai Savoir, 1969) and seventies output (much of which was collaborative work).

Once the artist's sovereign vision is gone so too is the appeal of his art.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Great but cheaper in Germany Aug. 27 2005
By J. Inglis - Published on
This is a great film with wonderful political overtones. If you would like to see it for around 25$, get the German copy. The only drawback besides PAL is that it is dubbed into German!
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Where's the End Title May 16 2008
By Robert Furem - Published on
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Great movie. Decent,not exceptional transfer. Nice extras. However, where is the end title to the film that Richard Brody mention in his new Godard biography. After the shutters are closed their should be an end title that reads "The End Of A Beginning." It has gone missing. This is why Koch Lorber is not Criterion. Can any of you Godard experts out there help with this? Thanks.
While Godard would develop a reputation as a political firebrand, this film affectionately pokes fun at young idealism Oct. 18 2015
By Christopher Culver - Published on
In 1966, Jean-Luc Godard made the acquaintance of some young members of the French Left who felt a strong pull towards Maoism. By looking to China, they sought to escape the traditional division of the French Left into supporters of the Soviet Union, which had lost its revolutionary fervour, and Trotskyist parties, which were impotent. (Of course, at the time the West was still generally unaware of the horrific toll of Mao's policies.) Godard, whose sociological curiosity and political engagement was strong in these years, decided to study this phenomenon, and the result is LA CHINOISE. While Godard would eventually go on to make a few films that were so didactically political that one felt bludgeoned by the message and watching was no fun, this one surprised me in how entertainingly its plot played out and how astute its observations were.

In a Parisian flat borrowed for the summer while one member's parents are away, a group of young radicals lodge together and fancy themselves a revolutionary cell. Chief among them are Guillaume (Jean-Pierre Léaud), Véronique (Anne Wiazemsky) and Yvonne (Juliet Berto). They read daily from Mao, decrying the Soviet Union and French society, and practicing their demagoguery for their occasional attempts to bring their message into the streets. Gradually, they come to decide that terrorism is necessary to achieve their goals, and they gang up on the sole dissenter from violence and kick him out of the flat. Francis Jeanson, a French academic and opponent of the war in Algeria, as well as Wiazemsky's actual thesis adviser, appears as himself in a scene where he attempts to dissuade Véronique from violence, asking just how much support from the oppressed masses does this sheltered girl think she has.

As desperate as he was for a cause to uphold, I don’t believe that Godard really committed himself deep down to Maoism or revolutionary socialism in general. His bitterness against the staid French status quo is palpable, and he likes how the French Maoists at least recognized a need for change, but LA CHINOISE affectionately criticizes its subjects more than it celebrates them. Rather than presenting Maoism convincingly as a way forward, LA CHINOISE ultimately suggests it was only the most recent expression of the drive to rebellion that appears afresh in every young generation. While these characters are Maoists, he borrowed the basic outlines of the plot from Dostoyevsky, who described a set of young radicals well before Marxism-Leninism. The filmmaker underscores how such idealistic young people take themselves too seriously, he shows their adoption of Maoist art as a sort of fashion statement, their use of Maoist terminology as the latest hip slang.

There are some fun touches here, the acerbic humour and amusing dialogue that Godard brought to his storytelling. The occasional use of Brechtian distancing techniques, like when Guillaume suddenly breaks character and talks to cinematographer Raoul Coutard, lead the viewer to reflect more on what is happening. And in spite of Godard's revolutionary sentiments, LA CHINOISE maintains a dialogue with the film tradition (cinephiles will chuckle at the avant-garde snippet that occasionally pops up in the soundtrack, a clear nod to Ingmar Bergman's film PERSONA).

Like Godard's early colour films, this is also a visual pleasure. Much of the first half of the film seems to me a study of faces: Léaud's famous expressiveness, Wiazemsky's quirky overbite and distinct way of moving her mouth to the left when talking, and Berto's sad eyes. The set design is clever, full of little details. It's great that Gaumont has re-released this film in Blu-Ray (with English subtitles), so viewers can appreciate all those touches in high-definition.

I wouldn't recommend LA CHINOISE to someone who had not seen Godard's earlier films, but I rate this pretty highly among his body of work and believe that it will impress anyone who has developed a love for this auteur's style.