Saturday 8 June 2019

Made in USA [1966]

French iconoclast, avowed leftist and the French Nouvelle Vague’s most defiantly non-conformist auteur Jean-Luc Godard, in a burst of extraordinary creative burst, made a jaw-dropping 16 films in his 7-year “New Wave” period. Made in USA, in its self-reflexive modernism, gleefully oblique narrative, playful mix of pop-cultural references and anti-imperialistic discourses, and allusions to classic American noirs, had all the hallmarks of that dizzyingly exuberant period. Yet it also stood out in his cheeky inversion of archetypal hardboiled gumshoe tropes – a sunny and ultra-colourful ambience in place of moody B/W chiaroscuro, and a woman PI in vibrant and mod outfits (though she does don the archetype once in a while) instead of a Bogart in a trench-coat and fedora. And, in a nostalgic touch for cinephiles, this was his final collaboration with his effervescent muse and by then ex-wife Anna Karina. Inspired by Hawks’ adaptation of Chandler’s The Big Sleep and loosely based on the novel The Jugger – since the so-called adaptation was unofficial, it couldn’t, ironically, release in the US for over 4 decades – the faux-narrative follows PI Paula Nelson (Karina) who’s come to Atlantic City to investigate the disappearance and potential death of her former lover who was an outspoken Communist. And, thus begins a freewheeling series of events, including her murder of a hood who might have created trouble for her, and her being chased by two hilariously deadpan thugs (Laszlo Szabo and Jean-Pierre Leaud). Along with its trenchant political stance, digressive structure and deliberately cartoonish violence, it was also filled with references ranging from American noir (David Goodis, Hammett, Preminger, Aldrich, Bogart, Widmark), which Godard loved, to American foreign policy (MacNamara, Nixon), which he detested.

Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Genre: Crime/Political Satire/Avant-Garde
Language: French
Country: France

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