DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
MADE IN USA (director/writer: Jean-Luc Godard; screenwriter: from the novel The Juggler by Donald E. Westlake; cinematographer: Raoul Coutard; editors: Agnès Guillemot/Françoise Collin; cast: Anna Karina (Paula Nelson), Laszlo Szabo (Richard Widmark), Jean-Pierre Leaud (Donald Siegel), Marianne Faithfull (as herself), Yves Afonso (David Goodis), Ernest Menzer (Edgar Typhus), (Doris Mizoguchi); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Georges de Beauregard; Criterion Collection, The; 1966-France-in French with English subtitles)

 
"This is Godard redefining image in his uniquely cheeky spontaneous pop art style."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

French New Wave director Jean-Luc Godard ("Weekend"/"Breathless"/"Band of Outsiders") pays homage in a tongue-and-cheek way to Howard Hawk's The Big Sleep (1946) with Bogie, as he honors the Hollywood film noir classic by breaking all the rules of the way Hollywood films. Godard drops Hollywood celebrated names like Richard Widmark, Donald Siegal, Robert Aldrich, and Otto Preminger. Inspired by the novel The Juggler by Donald E. Westlake, Godard loosely follows that story.

It's an unconventional narrative that follows the mystery of the murder of a young woman's lover and films its violence as cartoonish Disney-like acts. It offers odd anti-capitalist philosophizing (such as "advertising is a form of fascism"); political comments (it makes references to the Ben Barka and Kennedy assassinations); out of the blue Marianne Faithfull croons in a cafe "As Tears Go By"; and pop art images freely appear throughout, that are unrelated to the story.

This is Godard redefining image in his uniquely cheeky spontaneous pop art style. Don't expect it to be understood in a conventional sense. It's a good example of the director at the height of his power, who takes postmodernism in ways that will be defined as “Godardian.”

Leftist writer and a private investigator (ala Bogart), Paula Nelson (Anna Karina, soon-to-be ex-wife of Godard), leaves Paris for Atlantic City, France, to investigate the death of her former colleague and lover, Richard P., to an assassination involving political intrigue (this murky explanation never gets any clearer). Paula checks into a cheap hotel and wonders where to start her investigation. When the irritating dwarfish informer Edgar Typhus (Ernest Menzer) comes to her hotel room, she kills him and states "Now, fiction overtakes reality." Soon the corpses mount up and Paula delivers the movie's most memorables line—"We were in a political movie. . . . Walt Disney with blood."

Godard's plot manages to be even more impenetrable than Hawk's. It's a film with brilliant colors and framed as if Karina was a model in a fashion show, showing off a different beautiful dress in every frame.

Godard shot this film in the morning while also shooting the film "Two or Three Things I Know About Her" after lunch. Like most films of Godard's at the time it's playful, political, loud and provocative. He's a filmmaker for those who value freewheeling personal films and can share his deconstructions of cinematic technique as being somehow a positive for movie lovers.

The film is dedicated to Nicholas Ray and Samuel Fuller.

REVIEWED ON 7/6/2011       GRADE: B

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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