Tuesday, November 3, 2009

La Chinoise

La Chinoise, 1967
Dir: Jean-Luc Godard
November 2, 2009

I suppose there are a few nuggets of information that you can take away from this concerning the differences in socialist dogma, but unlike the saving grace for a lot of other Godard (at least for me), this film is far more interested in it's "philosophy" than it is in anything visually interesting, which is why this, at 99 minutes, was still pretty tough to get through. Some of the title screen-shots and back-and-forth camera movements are seen in the Wes Anderson book, so I bet he thought this film was swell. Visually, it's still discernibly Godard in it non-linear sequences and semi-playful structural tone, but most of the time you are trying not to turn the film off to really care.

Set in a Maoist terrorist cell of students who have just read him, it’s all about the irony and hypocrisy of being a bourgeois "activist" rather than preaching or doing something sensible. The most glaring joke being the collective taking place in an upper-class apartment loaned to them by a relative. Each of the four main characters is slightly different: Guillaume (Jean-Pierre LĂ©aud) is the artist, Veronique (Anne Wiazemsky, Godard's not-so-hot new wife) is the radical intellectual, Henry (Michel Semeniako) is the rational one, and Yvonne (Juliet Berto) seems to represent the lower-class swept up in the excitement. It’s activism without action; these four only fight with other people’s words and thoughts, and even then with each other. They are all pretty retarded, with Henri the only one who ever says anything reasonable, eventually getting kicked out for liking an American movie, Nicholas Ray's Johnny Guitar (1954) and his eventual realization that a peaceable solution is the only way for their ideas (or Mao's) to make any real progress in France. There is another character who hangs about, Kirilov (Lex de Bruijin), whose name and eventual suicide over failed ideas is supposed to clue you in to the fact that the film is loosely based on Dostoyevsky's novel 'The Possessed,' a novel that I have not read, so only until reading some other stuff on this did I find out. I suppose it's all clever and ironic, and Godard's sneer at the ineptness of some Communists who have no backbone is evident, but he is clearly on the students' side despite their hypocrisy, which is absolutely baffling to me. I don't know. I just don't give a shit anymore. It's a bit like Maculin Feminin (1966) in some regards, except what the people are saying makes you want stab their vocal chords all the time instead of some of the time.

* Check out swingin' 60s garage stomp "Mao Mao" by Claude Chennes, which is in the film. Also notice the title card at the end, reading something like, "The imperialists are still alive blah blah blah I'm inane." I dig the song, not so much the title card.

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