Backlog #11: Le Petit Soldat (1960)

I don’t think that I have seen anyone look as stunningly beautiful as Anna Karina in this film. We’re all quite in love with her, most of all, the camera. She only has to look our way to leave us needing a good sit down somewhere.

All of this love for his partner slots into Godard’s film, a shoestring-budget political thriller contemporaneously set around the Algerian war of independence. It’s a cool, cynical but spiky piece. The soldier of the title is a nondescript fellow, draft-dodging in Geneva, but making a living doing grim tasks for French intelligence. He’s given a FLN agent to take out but he vacillates. Eventually he’s kidnapped and tortured by the Algerians before being let go. Deciding to leave for Brazil with his FLN-sympathising girlfriend, the final joke is that the government gets hold of her and tortures her to death.

Bruno has no conviction at all for the cause he’s employed by, beyond patriotism. He’s conscious that the government are just as bad morally as the freedom-fighters. He’s presented subjectively contemplating this throughout, and there is no resolution available to him. War and its consequences are the arena of his life.

Le Petit Soldat manages to be both downbeat and sparkling. It is politically lucid and interesting. The subjective presentation of the characterisation of Bruno as her goes through the film is a development. The dialogue and reflections are refreshingly droll. Despite being a low budget art film set in a world of cynicism and brutality, it’s an entertaining (though harrowing) watch.

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