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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
BrilliantJuly 8 2008
- Published on Amazon.com
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 We encounter an outdated renunciation of Marxism-Leninism, which sadly converted large swaths of radicalizing youths to Mao in the 1960's, and still has some resonance on the left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 lookAug. 7 2008
- Published on Amazon.com
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 GermanyAug. 27 2005
- Published on Amazon.com
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 TitleMay 16 2008
- Published on Amazon.com
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.
The Revolution Is Not A Dinner Party, Indeed!Jan. 5 2010
- Published on Amazon.com
The last time the name of famous (1960s famous) French experimental filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard appeared in this space was in last year's retro-review of his documentary/didactic montage of The Rolling Stones as they went through their paces in creating the rock classic "Sympathy For The Devil" in 1968. I faulted Godard's efforts there for trying the patience of even the most ardent Stones fan (including this reviewer) with his interspersing of 1960s hard political rhetoric and zany antics with a rather long drawn out exposition on the creative process that it took to create a song lasting a few moments. All the faults there, however, turn into pluses in this 1967 look at the trials and tribulation of a small group of ardent radicals trying to make sense of their world (their French world, by the way) during the tumultuous 1960s and during the heat of the struggle to break with, what in France, was the status quo- adherent to the Communist Party that, although having at one time perspective for socialist revolution and the road to a communist society, had seemingly given up that mantle to Mao and the Chinese Revolution.
The story line here is fairly simple, although perhaps rather obscure to the last couple of generations since the generation of '68 had its heyday. Fair enough. I need not spent much time on this however because the story line has its antecedents in, and the script fairly accurately follows, the famous Russian writer Dostoevsky's novel "The Possessed". (Dostoevsky, by the way came within a hairbreadth of the hangman's noose for his own youthful political activism, something which colors in a perverse way the cautionary tale he tells). The plot centers on a small group of college students who, during the summer break and with time on their hands, are struggling with ideas about their place in the world, their seeming being left out of the decision-making process of that world, and most importantly, for the "lessons" to be taken from the film what to do about it. That small group which as the plot unfurls turns itself into a political cell, as was the nature of the times, turned to revolutionary politics, or what they thought was revolutionary politics in an attempt resolve these conflicts.
The beauty of Godard experimentalism in this work is that, although there is some dialogue it really does not depend on that as much as the visually imaginary that he projects. I mentioned above his use of montage in the Stones film. Here he, seemingly, pored through every known photograph of every known, wannabe or has-been revolutionary up until that time as he adds to his main story. However, that is only part of the brilliant use of film here. I will just point out a couple shots that struck me. Most of the action takes place at cell headquarters, an apartment where the students live, read, smoke many cigarettes, and are lectured to, and at, on Mao Thought. Visually the process of turning the group from bored, if intelligent, students to armchair Red Guards is shown by the depletion of the library from the standards of Western literature until near the end the shelves are almost filled with Red Books.
Another is the use of lectures in traditional lecture style in the tiny apartment where there are only three or four others present. They took turns at this. The most interesting one was when the pro-Moscow student tried to lecture and was given boos and catcall for his efforts. No one said there was no shortage of infantilism in those days, as the overhead cost of trying to figure out the political universe. There are many other shots like these that give you a fairly realistic picture of that small world, replicated many, many times throughout the world in those days. Well done, Monsieur Godard