“One must replace vague ideas with clear images.”
A group of French university students — Veronique (Anne Wiazemsky), Guillaume (Jean-Pierre Leaud), Yvonne (Juliet Berto), Henri (Michel Semeniako), and Kirilov (Lex De Bruijn) — share a bourgeois apartment over the summer while studying Maoism and planning terrorist revolt.
Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary notes, La Chinoise may well be “one of Jean-Luc Godard’s most interesting political works”. He infuses the seemingly dry subject matter with stunningly stylized visuals (every shot is strategically framed, and primary colors literally pop off of the screen), and treats his characters with both respect and irony, making it clear how troubled their idealistic yet naive ideology really is. Indeed, since the act of violent terrorism carried out near the end of the film is treated so casually, it’s literally impossible to take these students’ actions too seriously. Unfortunately, the last ten minutes or so of the film — in which we’re inexplicably introduced to new characters — dilute the finale; but given Godard’s penchant for illogical narrative sequencing (he once famously said, “A story should have a beginning, a middle and an end, but not necessarily in that order”), this is perhaps to be expected.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- A unique glimpse at young revolutionaries avidly pursuing knowledge about Maoism
- Leaud demonstrating a theatrical technique used by a Maoist to make a political point
- Stark, close-up framing, often with Chinese posters in the background
- Creative use of vivid, contrasting primary colors as backdrops
- An effective juxtaposition of words and visuals to relate a particular time and attitude
- Many memorable images
- Typically Godardian mise-en-scene and an “interrupted”, disorienting musical score
Yes. While a little of Godard goes a long way, I think all film fanatics should watch this tongue-in-cheek political fable.