Wednesday, October 29, 2008

La Chinoise

La Chinoise (Jean-Luc Godard, 1967) [7]
Not as radical in form as Weekend, La Chinoise does share the same radical political sensibility that defines Godard's work of the late 60s. Both as an examination and critique of the Maoist influenced left in France, the is certainly stamped in its place and time. That doesn't mean it's an excruciating bore to watch; in fact, it was a much more enjoyable film than I imagined. The film centers on a group of student radicals, left alone in a Paris apartment for the summer, as they talk and plan revolution. There's a constant argument about the "true communists", the Maoists and Soviet revisionists. It boils down to a lot of bluster and very little action, which could be take as a dig against the radical movement, but I really don't believe it is. The group decides to attempt to shut down the universities by a campaign of fear and bombing. This leads to a fantastic scene with one of the students and her professor, on a train, discussing the merits of the plot. The film ends with the summer gone, parents back, and nothing accomplished. While Godard does send up some of the pompous navel-gazing done that characterizes the left, he and the film seem more emboldened by the student's earnest thoughts and actions more than trying to demean it. He uses this fixed place, the confined walls of the apartment, to concentrate on the arguments and dissection of Maoist ideas and to a more general extent, the ideas of the radical Left in general. It could have been nothing more than some actors shouting political rhetoric, but Gordard elevates it by breaking down form to an extent. Through vignettes, music, and breaking down the forth wall, the film mixes itself up enough not to make just a recital of works. I happened to like the use of color in the film, a lot of contrast of stark white and red. While I'm sure a lot of people will find the film stuck in its place in time, I happen to see it as an interesting document in history.

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