film fatales #69: le bonheur (agnès varda, 1965)
geezer cinema: dark waters (todd haynes, 2019)

anna karina: le petit soldat (jean-luc godard, 1963)

I decided to watch an Anna Karina movie after learning of her passing. I've seen most of the Karina-Godard collaborations, but I'd missed this, the first time they worked together.

This was Godard's first movie after Breathless, although it wasn't released for a few years, as it was banned in France for torture scenes. Its setting is the Algerian War, and Godard's treatment of the war more closely resembles "real life" than did Breathless, which was drenched in B-movies. But Le Petit Soldat feels more like a Godard 60s movie than it does like a movie about the war. It is recognizably Godard ... it fits with his 60s canon ... but it didn't always strike me as impressively as others, perhaps because Breathless had already convinced us that Godard was special, while Le Petit Soldat was more of a holding pattern. Anna Karina is lovely, and it's no surprise Godard fell for her. But the picture really belongs to Michel Subor, who is one of the reasons the film feels "real". Unlike with the distancing of Belmondo's Bogartisms in Breathless, Subor is playing a conflicted terrorist as if his character was in a war rather than a movie. I don't want to take this too far ... there are too many Godardian mannerisms for Le Petit Soldat to come across too straightforward. And where Pontecorvo emulated you-are-there documentary style for The Battle of Algiers, Godard is (as usual) more interested in the meaning of cinema.

Vivre Sa Vie remains my favorite Godard/Karina movie, and Band of Outsiders is the most iconic, but Le Petit Soldat more than holds its own in that rarefied company.


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