“La Chinoise” is Godard’s profound masterpiece in which the filmmaker/writer going through an exploration of ideas through characters, explore actions knowing all too well, the film may not change a thing. “La Chinoise” is recommended!
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TITLE: La Chinoise
DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 1967
DURATION: 96 Minutes
BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p (1:37:1 Aspect Ratio), 2.0 French Monaural
COMPANY: Kino Lorber
RATED: Not Rated
RELEASE DATE: October 10, 2017
Directed by Jean-Luc Godard
Written by Jean-Luc Godard
Cinematography by Raoul Cotard
Edited by Delphone Desfons, Agnes Guillemot
Costume Design by Gitt Magrini
Anne Wizamsky as Veronique
Juliet Berto as Yvonne
Jean-Pierre Leaud as Guillaume
Michael Semeniako as Henri
Lex De Bruijn as Kirilov
Omar Dip as Omar
Francis Jeanson as Francis
Blandine Jeanson as Blandine
Eliane Giovagnoli as Son Ami
La Chinoise is a pop-art masterpiece by Jean-Luc Godard that both channels and parodies the revolutionary energies of Paris in 1967. Disillusioned by their suburban lifestyles, a group of middle-class students, led by Guillaume (Jean-Pierre Léaud) and Véronique (Anne Wiazemsky), form a small Maoist cell and plan to change the world by any means necessary. After studying the growth of communism in China, the students decide they must use terrorism and violence to ignite their own revolution.
For French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard, while celebrated for his French New Wave films, his supporters and even his friends started to see a change with the filmmaker who shifting towards films that were becoming more political and going after government and also society.
While Godard would begin to go full force with his radical films in 1968, two years prior, we started to see Godard’s film shift into this direction beginning with “Made in U.S.A.” and then his two films in 1967, “La Chinoise” and “Weekend”.
The film is written and directed by Godard and would star Anne Wiazemsky (“Au Hasard Balthazar”, “Teorema”, “Rendez-vous), who would become Godard’s wife that very year; Juliet Berto (“Weekend”, “Celine and Julie Go Boating”, “Neige”), Jean-Pierre Leaud (“The 400 Blows”, “Stolen Kisses”, “Masculin Feminin”), Michael Semeniako (“Le Cercle de Minuit”) and more.
“La Chinoise” is considered as one of Godard’s best films and it was released on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber.
While the film was not supposed to be prescient of what would eventually take place in May 1968 in France, the film no doubt examines New Left activism and the film was didactic in its approach to Maoism. For those not familiar with Maoism, it is a political theory derived from the teachings of the Chinese political leader Mao Zedong and was applied as the political and military ideology of the Communist Party of China and it guided many revolutionary movements around the world.
The film revolves around five university students who represent different ideologies and have different personalities. They are conspiring to overthrow the Russian Imperial regime through revolutionary violence.
The film is set in Paris and these five students belong to a radical Maoist group known as Aden Arabie Cell and consists of Nanterre University student Veronique (portrayed by Anne Wiazemsky); a young bourgeois actor named Guillaume (portrayed by Jean-Pierre Leaud); the girl from the countryside, Yvonne (portrayed by Juliet Berto); science student from the University of Grenoble, Henri (portrayed by Michel Semeniako) and a Dutch painter named Kirilov (portrayed by Lex de Bruijin). And a visit from their friend, Omar (portrayed by Omar Dio).
Each of these students are in summer vacation and they spend their time studying political articles, practicing their lectures with one another, inviting guest speakers to their pad and dreaming of a revolution.
And reading text about advocating violence in the name of resolution, these individuals decide to assassinate Soviet novelist, Mikhail Sholokhov, who happens to be in Paris as a cultural ambassador representing the Soviet government.
“La Chinoise” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:37:1 aspect ratio). This is probably the best I have seen of this classic film. Presented in 1080p, detail of closeups are well-done and I saw no signs of film damage or any artifact issues while watching the film.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“La Chinoise” is presented with French with English subtitles. Lossless audio is 2.0 Mono and for those who have never watched a Jean-Luc Godard film, while you will get crystal clear dialogue, expect to hear Claude Channes “La Chinoise” being played multiple times.
“La Chinoise” comes with following special features:
- Interview with actor Michael Semeniako – (38:28)
- Interview with Assistant Director Charles Bitsch – (19:49)
- Interview with 2nd Assistant Director Jean-Claude Sussfield – (17:39)
- Interview with writer Denitza Bantcheva – (18:55)
- Interview with film historian Antoine de Bascque – (30:55)
- La Chinoise Trailer
The Blu-ray comes with a 16-page booklet with essays by Richard Hell and Amy Taubin.
The film before filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard would go onto create his more political, radical films, “La Chinoise” was no doubt created during the frustration building in France at the time and a foretelling of what was to come a year later.
“La Chinoise” is a Godard masterpiece that manages to capture cinema, politics and didactic principles that would pave the way to Godard radicalism and non-docile filmmaking.
The film marks Godard pursuing to look into Maoism, while casting Anne Wiazemsky as his main lead and an actress who won audiences for her performance in the 1966 Robert Bresson film “Au hasard Balthazar”, would marry Godard that very year and would later become a successful novelist.
The film would also star two of France’s well-known young talents who have appeared in previous and later Godard films, Jean-Pierre Leaud and Juliet Berto.
What I enjoyed about “La Chinoise” is that it’s a film where Godard is trying to understand and gain knowledge of political ideology through his characters. In fact, Godard would refer to Wizaemsky as “Cinematographic education” and unlike his previous films that may incorporate some sort of form of love, “La Chinoise” is about students who stay at a friend’s apartment during a summer break from university terms to learn about each other’s ideology and through discussion of violence as a necessity to achieve revolutionary goals.
Reading text about advocating violence in the name of resolution, these individuals decide to assassinate Soviet novelist, Mikhail Sholokhov, who happens to be in Paris as a cultural ambassador representing the Soviet government.
“La Chinoise” represents the intelligent cinema that demanding cinemaeaste want to see. Wanting to expand their views on cinema, wanting characters that are non-banal, with substance.
You have Veronique (Wiazemsky) who’s appearance of a beautiful, intelligent college student attending University Nanterre but yet wanting to shut down the university with bombs. Veronique wants a violent revolution. Going further, Anne Wiazemsky’s real-life philosophy professor at the Paris X University Nanterre, Francis Jeanson is in the film and Veronique and Jeanson are in a discussion in which he tries to argue against the use of violence to shut down French universities. Jeanson in support of cultural action, Veronique through violence to inspire a revolution.
The real-life Jeanson was committed to the National Liberation Front (FLN) during the Algerian War his appearance in the film was no doubt fascinating.
Godard and his actors would not know that a year later, protesting students and millions of French workers would go on strike, paralyze the country but in effect, would lead France and liberate French society.
Jean-Pierre Leaud’s character of Guillaume is no doubt a character that is a mouthpiece for Godard. For those who watch a Godard film, there are always moments where Godard likes to use his characters and allow the character to speak for him. And in Guillaume’s scenes, Godard goes Brechtian style and one of the most powerful scenes is when Guillaume goes to a blackboard with the names of famous playwrights including Sartre, Giraudoux, Racine, Cocteau, Goethe, Sophocles, Chekhov and Shakespeare and as Guillaume erases each name, one name stays and it is Brecht.
The film is crafted in a way that it doesn’t try to pick which side is right or which side is wrong. While some may feel that a film about characters who are into Maoism, Marxism, Lennism, makes the film too radical, may not know that after the premiere of “La Chinoise”, those who are Marxist-Leninist Maoists complained and were furious about how they were portrayed. That “La Chinoise” made them look irresponsible.
Film critics praised the film as a Godard masterpiece and that the film captured the revolt of youth. The film is may seem too hip for students to pull off such a revolution but it happened in France in 1968. For something more brutal, Kino Lorber also has a film from Koji Wakamatsu called “United Red Army” which shows how normal university students of the ’60s and ’70s dedicated their lives to communism and also wanting a revolution, chose a path of violence and murder. Where students were allowed to voice their opinion among the students featured in “La Chinoise”, in Japan, members who were weak-minded were killed and these students chose to become terrorists, recruited by a Palestinian group and attacked Lod airport near Tel Aviv, killing 26 people and injuring 80 others. Both films about students wanting a revolution. Godard’s film being surreal without despair, Wakamatsu’s film showing the barbaric nature of homegrown terrorism.
I looked at “La Chinoise” as a flip-flop of “Masculin Feminin” (1966), where the 1966 film was more pop with slight political undertones, “La Chinoise” is slight pop with more political undertones. Both entertaining, both wonderful films, different execution, different Godard in terms of mind-set but yet “La Chinoise” being more poetic, didactic and experimental.
The film looks great on Blu-ray and the best I have ever seen of the film so far. Presented in 1080p, the film features a monaural 2.0 soundtrack and numerous interviews.
Overall, “La Chinoise” is Godard’s profound masterpiece in which the filmmaker/writer going through an exploration of ideas through characters, explore actions knowing all too well, the film may not change a thing.
“La Chinoise” is recommended!