Imagine that Bob Dylan recorded an album in between Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde. We’re not talking about a Basement Tapes–style collection, but a full-length record infused with his characteristic verve. Now pretend that this Dylan project never got a proper release here; other than the occasional playing of a mono recording, you weren’t able to hear it. Then, for two weeks, listeners could experience the work in all its high-fidelity glory. There would be dancing in the streets.
Whether Jean Luc-Godard’s fans will start doing the froog in front of Film Forum remains to be seen, but they damn well should. The director’s 1966 Molotov cocktail of American pulp and Parisian paranoia (fueled by the Ben Barka affair) finally gets a proper theatrical run after years of sporadic New York showings. Compared with such agitpop masterpieces as Pierrot le Fou and Weekend, this political thriller-cum-critique may not inspire as much ecstasy or draw as much blood. But it’s still essential for those interested in watching the filmmaker take cinema to new levels of allusion and modernist game playing.
The title isn’t arbitrary: Godard’s paying tribute to the B-movie pleasures of our studios (the film is dedicated “to Nick [Ray] and Sam [Fuller]”) and condemning the Cold War imperialism imported from the USA. The new 35mm Scope print heightens Raoul Coutard’s cinematography and Anna Karina’s beauty (this would be the star’s last film with her ex-husband) to dizzying degrees; it’s as if you’re seeing Godard’s in-living-color commentary for the very first time.