I was worried that this film would either be too over my head or too all over the place for me to enjoy much. I feared wrongly (or discounted Godard, as he’s in command here) – it’s very watchable, for its style; and its didactics I found worthwhile (I certainly didn’t object to them – I perhaps feared that this film was a commie blowout).
It’s a clear demonstration of Godard’s move towards political didatics well outside of the mainstream (where he would be a year later). Whereas Masculin Feminin, released two years earlier, is concerned with a group of young people engaging with materialism (backgrounded by geopolitics), La Chinoise has moved the scenario onwards: the five young people in this film form up a neo-maoist revolutionary cell and they look inwards, at how they can destroy the system. Both films find that the groups individuals go about their goals in different ways, and this leads to disaster.
An anarchist group kidnap the American Ambassador and attempt to hide him whilst the French administration go to any lengths to retrieve the situation.
After totally mastering the subversion of the psychological thriller, Chabrol, clearly ready to move on, goes sideways in having a go at the political sort. Its territory is similar to The Day of the Jackal (the Republique closes in on the gang to prevent a terrorist outrage), except here it’s not a serious dramatisation but more of a farce. The gang are far too intelligent and humane (and cool too) to be effective in going through with their task and it all slowly goes wrong. In response, the police and representatives of the state are amusingly cynical in their deliberations and action.
A solid, entertaining film, but not enough happens dramatically for it to be one of Chabrol’s best.
Not the best Godard that I’ve watched, perhaps the worst (and from this evidence not very memorable). I have very little appreciation of musicals, so this film, which takes the sensibility of musicals and puts it in the milieu of kitchen sink Paris sans chansons. Anna Karina (who is rather nice to look at) and Jean-Claude Brialy (who I haven’t taken to much – he certainly does not seem to be very charismatic) have something of a rumbustious relationship that is so unexciting that I’ve forgotten how it resolves. J-PB plays something of a loveable idiot who drifts in and out – he’s good.
I have less time for J-LG’s Franco-Italian co-productions than the lower budget stuff: the gloss and wide spaces don’t really do it for me.