This is Godard having fun with colours and language as its crime-noir trappings somewhat mask the auteur’s increasing fixation on Marxist politics, though the film isn’t always coherent or compelling.
Dir. Jean-Luc Godard
1966 | France | Drama | 85 mins | 2.35:1 | French
Not rated – likely to be NC16 for some mature themes
Cast: Anna Karina, Laszlo Szabo, Jean-Pierre Leaud
Plot: Leftist writer Paula goes from Paris to the French town of Atlantic-Cité when she learns of the death of a former colleague and lover. Is she there to investigate?
Subject Matter: Moderate – Murder; Deception; Deconstruction
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: General Arthouse
I’m not sure what to make of Made in U.S.A. It seems like quintessential Godard, but similar to Pierrot le fou (1965), I find myself struggling to like it as much as his other films. It isn’t always coherent or compelling though it is difficult to deny that Godard isn’t having fun with his material.
Anna Karina, in her final role for the French New Wave auteur, plays a private detective caught up in a murder, the police and gangsters.
But in true Godardian fashion, Made in U.S.A deconstructs the crime procedural to give us a fragmented, sometimes frustratingly anti-action take on the perilous dynamics of loyalty and betrayal.
Karina’s Paula Nelson is always in bright colours, and the production design could easily slot into an early Wes Anderson film.
“If I speak about a place, it has disappeared. If I speak about time, it’s gone already. If I speak about a man… he’s about to die.”
There’s particular emphasis on sound, most conspicuously when any character mentions the name of the murdered ‘Richard P—”, which Godard cheekily censors part of via the loud, swooshing sound of what seems like a rocket or fighter jet.
In other scenes, characters converse but the film is silent. And then there’s Godard’s increasing fixation on Marxist politics as communist spiel emanates from a radio.
The film’s crime-noir trappings do somewhat mask the politics, which get increasingly radical and verbose in the filmmaker’s post-60s phase. If you can tolerate Godard in both good and meh times, you should give Made in U.S.A a shot.