Zany, playful, impish, funny, improvisational and subversive – La Chinoise brilliantly embodied the pop-art palette, political provocations and freewheeling essay form of the two more famous works with which it constituted a triptych, viz. 2 or 3 Things I Know about Her and Weekend. And, in its delirious agitprop professing hard-left “call for action”, it can also be viewed as a companion piece to the extraordinary – albeit diametrically different, tonally and formally – The Battle of Algiers. Interestingly, it also presaged the May 68 student protests, which imbued it with stirring prescience and déjà vu, despite Godard’s disarming levity, amusing infusions and a delirious sense of ambiguity. Nearly the entire film is set within an apartment temporarily occupied by a group of five Parisian college students who’ve formed an underground Maoist cell. Led by the articulate Véronique (Anne Wiazemsky; in her second film after her debut in Bresson’s minimalist masterpiece Au Hasard Balthazar and her first with her then beau Godard) and her fidgety boyfriend Guillaume (Jean-Pierre Léaud at his neurotic best), they spend time discussing politics, reading Mao’s “Little Red Book”, sloganeering, performing whimsical role plays, berating American imperialism and Johnson’s Vietnam policy, and whatnot; and, in order to put their polemics into radical action, they plan the assassination of a Soviet cultural attache. The film’s idiosyncratic exuberance was fabulously showcased by the hilarious song “Mao Mao”; it lived its Brechtian influences on its sleeves, including glimpses of its cinematographer Raoul Coutard filming; and its stunning, disarming and rambling seriousness reached its apotheosis over a fascinating discourse between Véronique and Wiazemsky’s real-life philosophy professor Francis Jeanson who was renowned for his active support to the FLN during the Algerian revolution.
Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Genre: Avant-Garde/Experimental Film/Political Satire/Agitprop