La Chinoise

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La Chinoise
A Molotov mixture of comedy and commentary, Jean-Luc Godard’s look at radical chic among the young and restless is his most direct pomo dissertation about revolutionary politics as a form of pop spectacle. (Or is it the other way around?) The temptation to compare these fresh-faced kids indulging in a fad with the students of May ’68 is hard to resist. Yet even as he’s putting his own diatribes in the mouths of babes, Godard sees these trendy Maoists as merely kids playing house. They talk—or rather, sloganeer—a good game, but once the Little-Red-Book-smart Véronique (Wiazemsky, Mrs. Godard at the time) discusses her terrorist daydreams with philosopher Francis Jeanson, the true shallowness of her ideology becomes evident. Asked what she would accomplish by blowing up the Sorbonne, Véronique replies that the result doesn’t concern her. All that matters is the performance-art aspect.

Back then, La Chinoise must have felt like a damning rebuke to fair-weather Guevaras. Today, the movie feels like a long goodbye to a vital filmmaker. Godard had used theory to great effect before, but the endless sequences of Wiazemsky and Jean-Pierre Léaud simply reading text into the screen feel almost unbearably didactic; this is the moment the director dips his toe into the whirlpool that would pull him under completely over the next decade. He still had Weekend (1967) ahead of him, but when those red shutters close at the end, you feel like you’ve just witnessed a last hurrah of cultural relevance.

Release details

Rated: NR
Duration: 96 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Screenwriter: Jean-Luc Godard
Cast: Anne Wiazemsky
Jean-Pierre Léaud
Michel Sémeniako
Juliet Berto
Lex de Bruijn
Omar Diop
Francis Jeanson