Friday, September 25, 2009

At the Bijou this week, cinema is truth twenty-four times a second

The French New Wave is in rare form this week at the Bijou. Hitting the silver screen are the previously unavailable Jean-Luc Godard films, *Made in U.S.A* and *Two or Three Things I Know About Her* as a double feature. *Made in U.S.A.* was loosely adapted from a Donald E. Westlake book, *The Jugger*, and because neither Godard nor his producers paid for the rights, the film only recently became accessible in the United States.

Jean-Luc Godard is most closely associated with the cinematic movement entitled the French New Wave. Godard is known as a prolific French filmmaker who infused his love of the cinema and his political leanings into all of his films. While he is credited with being a dissenter in relation to the classic filmmaking style of Golden Hollywood, he often makes reference to American films.

*Made in U.S.A.’s* Paula Nelson, played by Godard’s ex-wife Anna Karina, has been described as the female Humphrey Bogart circa *The Big Sleep*. Paula plays the gum shoe detective after discovering that her lover, Richard P…(we are unsure of his last name, as it is constantly smothered by ringing phones and car horns) has been murdered. The film is set in a French suburb named Atlantic City and the story unfurls amid reference to massive political events, such as the Kennedy assassination and the ‘disappearance’ of Ben Barka.

The narrative becomes almost illegible and is colored by characters named Inspector Aldrich, Richard Nixon and Robert McNamara, some of who sport bathrobes and “Kiss Me, I’m Italian” buttons. The violence is cartoonish. However, the narrative at the center of this film is not of much importance, rather what exists in the periphery.

*Made in U.S.A.* is a criticism on truth. We see his characters as caricatures but they feel they are accurately representing themselves. It comments on violence in 1950 Hollywood cinema. We are constantly aware that we are sitting in a theater, watching a film. It remarks on the political left’s inability to communicate. In classic Godard fashion, this is much more than a film.

*Two or Three Things I know About Her* is a remarkably appropriate film considering the economic mess this country is in at present. Though it was filmed in 1966, simultaneously with *Made in U.S.A.*, *Two or Three Things…* comments on western society’s adherence to consumerism.

The film centers on two “hers.” We follow a day in the life of Juliette Janson (Marina Vlady), a suburban housewife in her thirties. She is consumed by the need for things and routinely works as a prostitute to pay for her upper middle class lifestyle. Godard also looks at the changing landscape of Paris, our second “her.” He blames Janson’s capitalist environment for her situation.

At one point Jason describes her condition, “You go on using gas and water and electricity without giving a thought to the end of the month when the bills have to be paid… Either it is no money to pay the rent or no telly. Or else we keep the telly but no car. Or a washing machine but no holiday. Therefore in no way a normal life.”

*Two or Three Things…* focuses on the lengths people will go to for an unnecessarily high standard of living, propagated by the government at the American dream. Janson has “no hesitation between the wish and its fulfillment.” Our current situation in the U.S. echoes the sentiments of this film.

Politics and social comment abound in the double feature this week at the Bijou

- Greta H.R.

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