Made in U.S.A. (1966)

Made in U.S.A. (1966)

“You just throw words around. Do something with them!”

A private eye (Anna Karina) investigates the mysterious death of her former lover, found in the apartment of a writer (David Goodis).

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Detectives and Private Eyes
  • French Films
  • Jean-Luc Godard Films

Shot simultaneously with 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her (1967), this semi-improvised, genre-adjacent quickie by Jean-Luc Godard was nominally based on a novel called The Jugger by Richard Stark (a.k.a. Donald E. Westlake), but in reality does its own thing at every turn, intentionally messing with the audience’s sense of narrative or linear logic; indeed, as Jonathan Hoberman describes it in his illuminating essay for the Criterion Collection, it “represents Godard’s most sustained derangement of narrative convention.” Hoberman adds that it is “at least nominally, a political noir in the tradition of Godard’s second film, Le Petit Soldat (1960) [while] at the same time, it resembles Band of Outsiders (1964) in being a thriller about people who are acting as if they’re living in a movie.” Also useful is Hoberman’s explanation that:

“Part of Godard’s inspiration was Howard Hawks’ The Big Sleep (1946), whose mystery plot is infamously complicated and ultimately unsolvable, and in typical Godardian fashion he reworks it to the nth degree, not just gender-recasting the Bogart role with Karina (who in voice-over says she feels like Bogart in a Disney film), but taking the idea of an inscrutable plot and stringing it out to its logical ends.”

Perhaps most notable are the film’s endless references to filmmakers, writers, actors, and political figures of the time — starting with an homage to Nicholas Ray and Sam Fuller in an opening slide:

… and including characters with names like Richard Widmark, [Doris] Mizoguchi, and Donald Siegel, as well as mentioning the disappearance of Moroccan revolutionary Medhi Ben Barka. (All of this is explained in a 20-minute visual-essay supplement and a short documentary entitled “On the Cusp,” both included on the DVD.)

While this was all likely fascinating once upon a time to Godard enthusiasts, the irony is that a film made in reference to American pop culture was only shown here once (at a NY film festival in 1967) before it finally (re-)premiered in 2009, after Westlake’s passing. Godard enthusiasts will obviously want to check this one out, but it’s skippable by all others.

Note: Watch for a cameo by Marianne Faithfull singing The Rolling Stones’ “As Tears Go By” a capella in a cafe.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Colorful sets, costumes, and cinematography

Must See?
No. Listed as a film with Historical Importance in the back of Peary’s book.


One thought on “Made in U.S.A. (1966)

  1. First viewing (11/27/21). Skip it.

    Another crappy Godard movie. This one he dedicates “to Nick (Ray) and Samuel (Fuller) who raised me to respect image and sound”.

    ~ then he serves up this POS; so much for respect. Poor Karina, floundering as she attempts to maintain her dignity and some semblance of reality. Co-starring (minimally) the awful Jean-Pierre Leaud (what ‘joy’!).

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