La Chinoise

1967 [FRENCH]

Comedy / Drama

IMDb Rating 7.1 10 6940

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January 08, 2022 at 01:47 AM


Jean-Pierre Léaud as Guillaume
911.96 MB
fre 2.0
24 fps
1 hr 39 min
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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Quinoa1984 10 / 10

Mao-rock satire masterpiece, by Nouvelle Vague wild-man Jean-Luc Godard

In 1967, Jean-Luc Godard was sort of on a precipice of his career- right from the genre-bending experimental films that put him as a bizarre art-house hallmark, right before stepping off into going even further, and becoming a full-blown Maoist. How much of what he felt or thought influenced La Chinoise I can't say (never read a biography), but what I can sense from this film is the sense of an inner-contradiction working itself out in the form of a film that is playful and harsh, visually vibrant and emotionally subtle, if not present at all, and a documentary at the same time as a piece of deranged pop theater. In fact, it's a pseudo-documentary, and it's one of the most lucid films that Godard ever conceived, but more than anything La Chinoise acts as a counterpoint to hardcore, fundamental terrorist ideology. I can't be sure what side Godard would take, the young girl played by Wiazemsky who thinks the only way she can go past the reading and the discussion is to go to and start something as a working-class bomb chucker, or the young chemist who decides to drop out of the 'game' of sorts when he keeps seeing that she (Wiazemsky's Veronique, the same placid features which made her tragic in Au hasard Balthazard here make her almost psychotic) doesn't have a real grasp on what she or the other radicals are talking about.

Godard's film is packed with attitude though, so one can't see this as being something of a communist cautionary tale- you can tell that he does find a good deal in the little red book of Mao captivating. We hear a hard-pounding Mao rock song that dances between new anthem and parody. We see Jean-Pierre Leaud going on and on about this or that as the "actor" of the group and aiming arrows at liberal figureheads. When he first says it there's a brilliant sense of momentary self-consciousness as we see the cameraman and the sound-guy shooting, and this later reverts back into what is like a documentary on the fiction of the documentary of the movie if that makes sense. Then classical music rises up, and then cuts off in a flash. Like the characters, there is a sensibility of hope in some change, at least in this case with cinema, in approaching image and montage, composition, primary colors popping out at times like seas of red.

But at the same time he's almost going back and doing his own self-criticism. If one's seen at least one or two or more Godard films, primarily from the 60s, one often sees a character reading from a book on camera, sometimes for a long time. This time we see the characters stripped-down: they have nothing from experience, only from a kind of drunk-the-kool-aid reverence to the red book, with the kids or "guest" lecturers in the classroom scenes going on about it. I liked that, Godard fessing up to the futility of fervent worship, or rather stalwart dedication, to using up all ideas from a text. Aside from Anne Wiazemsky's character- and even she, by the end, just goes back to the way things were- the characters aren't really into practicing what they preach, despite the preaching 'heavy' and the discussion as highly charged as one would expect for 67-going-on-68 (if perhaps, like Easy Rider, anticipating the demise of the power behind a specific counter-cultural group).

Political nerve and rebellion gets criss-crossed with what is and what isn't the truth with these kids; they love Lenin and Marx as much as they love theater and movies acting. It's this loop of goofing around (I love the bit when two of the girls are playing with some contraption as if it were bull's horns, and one guy comes into the apartment and says 'ah, steering wheel'), and pontification that becomes fascinating. The scene on the train, with one shot where suddenly the color goes murky and the tone of the conversation between Veronique and the older man turns towards the realities of violence as a means of political ends, is extraordinary.

If it's at all a great film it's not simply because of Godard's experimentation, which is of course at its peak (he also made Week End the year this came out, his most ambitious and f****d-up film, maybe the craziest mix of statements in one movie ever). On the surface, at least at the start, it looks like another Godard Maoist mumble. Yet like in his earlier work, he puts the ideas back onto the characters, and doesn't make a muck of narration points or too many tangents. Like a documentary, we see the inner-workings and bias of a particular viewpoint. Like theater, it's colorful, hyper-active, entertaining to a weird fault. And like political science it dissects its subjects with some degree of respect for what is being talked about- communism- while never forgetting the damages it causes.

Reviewed by Bunuel1976 7 / 10

LA CHINOISE (Jean-Luc Godard, 1967) ***

Not an easy film to comment on, or even appreciate, given its overt political content - but also the fact that I watched it, without the benefit of English subtitles, on French TV (amusingly, the French ones which accompanied the screening could hardly keep up with Godard's typically loquacious script!); unfortunately, my reception of this cable channel - which has been showing some pretty good, even rare, titles for years - hasn't been perfect in recent times...but, in spite of all this, I still couldn't afford to miss out on one of Godard's most famous films, right?

Anyway, the director's best and worst qualities are well in evidence here: with an obvious emphasis on the color red, it's visually stimulating, indeed overwhelming (as, frustratingly, Godard often puts text in his images while the characters are speaking!), and filled with both sight and sound gags (the French song about Mao and the 'little red book' is hysterical), in-jokes (Godard's voice is often heard indistinctly interviewing the characters) and innumerable pop-culture references. However, it's undeniably exhausting to follow in detail, with the relentless spouting of Communist ideology and wordplay sometimes going over my head in the process...and, by the end, it all sort of runs out of steam anyway - what with most of the characters giving up on their enclosed life-style of theorizing and taking up menial jobs instead, apparently to put in practice what they had so far merely preached - or something similarly similar (why, it's gotten me mouthing abstractions, now!). The young cast is headed by popular "Nouvelle Vague" (and, apparently, politically-involved) stars such as Jean-Pierre Leaud, Anne Wiazemsky - who, for a while, became Mrs. Godard - and Juliet Berto.

Still, the film's anarchic, anything-goes attitude provides a good deal of amusement throughout; especially enjoyable is Wiazemsky's naïve interview, aboard a train, of a noted literary figure who turned conservative (which rebounds on herself and exposes her own political confusion!) and her own botched assassination attempt towards the end. Despite its necessarily heavy-going and obviously dated nature, LA CHINOISE - which has been released on DVD, though not in R1 land - is not quite the embarrassment that was, say, WHAT STALIN DID TO WOMEN (1969; which I watched only a few days ago)...and it's unfortunate that, for the next decade or so, Godard renounced mainstream cinema for underground political film-making (from which period I still have a couple of titles, British SOUNDS [1969] and ICI ET AILLEURS [1975], lying in my "Unwatched Films On VHS" pile)!

Reviewed by christopher-underwood 8 / 10

not for the new dilettantes that follow the likes of Jeremy Corbyn in the UK.

I seem to recall being somewhat perplexed when seeing this back in the day, being so much older then and all that. Even seeing it later I thought of it as a seeming glib comment on the student activity in Paris at the time. That student activity was of course a year or two later and this is Goddard anticipating, not only the event, but the nature of it and its predominance of white middle class kids playing at revolution. The look is great with boldly painted interiors and vivid and provocative mix of graphics. The director's eclectic use of music, pop and otherwise, is also evident in this important if not easy to watch film of the sixties. Performances are also very good here and surprisingly so given the confusing nature of the enterprise wth cameras on camera and voices off. Definitely worth a watch but probably not for the new dilettantes that follow the likes of Jeremy Corbyn in the UK.

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