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Friday, July 17, 2009

LA CHINOISE (1967)


The fast-changing face of China has only added to the levels of prescient wit & irony in this Jean-Luc Godard masterpiece. The film brings a wicked eye to the youthful enthusiasm of upper middle-class leftist radicals who spend all their time organizing political/cultural symposiums for themselves and then critiquing them.* Godard emphasizes their impotence by setting most of the film inside an apartment borrowed from a wealthy relative which then sets up a key moment when a regular tenant is glimpsed walking by their landing. They've actually opened the door to the world for a moment. This flash of real-life casts a shadow on their sterile construct of pure intellectual existence and mirrors the famous reflection of Sacre Coeur in Jacques Tati‘s PLAY TIME, also 1967. Tati & Godard each keep traditional narrative at bay, but in the place of Tati’s calm craft, Godard takes a Brechtian delight in contrapuntal signage & in exposing the innards of the filmmaking trade. And, unlike PLAY TIME, LA CHINOISE seems all but designed for home viewing . . . and re-viewing.

*Godard gives us a clue to his own politics by having a negative film review of Nick Ray's JOHNNY GUITAR from a communist newpaper read out loud. Some thoughts really are unforgivable.

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