Godardian Knot

Pop quiz: How many of you Michel Gondry and Charlie Kaufman fans out there have seen even one Jean-Luc Godard film? Frankly, friends, that’s plain embarrassing. You can’t go around touting the brilliance of your heroes’ fragmented narratives, surrealist alienation, emotional dead ends, and left-field comedy without some awareness of cinema’s long-reigning radical prodigy. A fine place to start is Made in U.S.A., the director’s long-unavailable 1966 Rubik’s cube of a romp starring his muse and soon-to-be ex-wife Anna Karina as a gumshoe (inspired by Bogart in The Big Sleep) getting to the bottom of her lover’s murder. Godard filters his admiration for no-nonsense American genre pictures — the movie is dedicated to famed directors Nicholas Ray and Samuel Fuller — through his usual lacerating contempt for American consumerism, advertising, and covert government intervention. Made in U.S.A. combines that perverse tension with a bold, bright color scheme (stunningly rendered in this new print), then plugs in the vibrant, up-for-anything Karina, and lets ’er rip. See it once for its beauty and audacity; see it again to make sense of it all.
April 1-7, 2009

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