Le Petit Soldat (1963)

JEAN-LUC GODARD

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.   

France, 1963, .   Screenplay by Cinematography by Produced by .   Music by .   Film Editing by , ,

Jean-Luc Godard follows the exuberance of Breathless with another film about gangsters on the loose, except now he folds his own political consciousness into the narrative. plays an agent for a right-wing organization doing its best to quash the success of the Algerian War, dedicated to the job despite the fact that he believes that his colleagues think he is a double agent. A lot of car chases are interrupted by dry conversations about meetings and suspicious individuals before Subor realizes he’s in love with the young woman () that his friend introduced him to. She, it turns out, is more than sympathetic to the other side, which challenges his political devotion and makes him question the humanity of his own beliefs. Beautifully photographed and possessed of that wonderfully spontaneous rhythm that early Godard possesses, this one isn’t as deep as its creator would like you to think it is, Godard is talking more about himself than saying anything profound about the morality of post-war France; the country’s doubling down on its colonial hold of North Africa is mainly an excuse for him to recreate the stylization of American gangster movies that he loves so much. Fans will be in heaven, though, as it’s as hip as it is provocative, and rightly ends with Karina taking centre stage in one of her few completely candid performances in any of his films.

The Criterion Collection:  #1010

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