La Chinoise (1967) Poster


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The Maoist ideal explored in a bourgeois setting
jameswtravers24 June 2000
La Chinoise, possibly Godard's most political work, is very much a film of its time. The mid-1960s was a period of great social change and political tension. America was at war with Vietnam, relations between Russia and the West were growing ever cooler, and the Far East was awakening to the hymn of the Chinese cultural revolution. Nearer to home, there was increasing tension between the French government, public-sector workers and the student population, which would come to a head in the following year with the student riots. It would have been more surprising if a French film director had not created a film like La Chinoise.

Here, Godard's method of film-making is at its most primitive and extreme. In a sense, it is hardly a film at all, but a series of sketches nailed crudely together, interspersed with some pretty wild pop-art like imagery. The end result is raggedy, colourful, a bit rough round the edges, but also quite witty.

It is not clear from this film where Godard's political allegiances lie. We can see that he is against the hypocrisy of the Amercain interventionalist policy, which he suggests are derived from imperialistic motives. However, it is less certain where he stands with regard to the Maoist communist ideal. The discussion between the students appears incredibly naïve, didactic, to the point of self-mockery. And the fact that the students are evidently from a middle class background seems to further underline the contradiction between their personal circumstances and their apparently deeply held beliefs.

It is probably safest to regard La Chinoise as Godard's view of how students consider the politics of the time rather than as a portrayal of his own political views. With that in mind, the film reads as a very perceptive study of the naivety of young adults. For these people, freed from the need to work for a living as they pursue their studies in comfortable surroundings, it is easy to contrive a woolly-minded simplistic picture of the world, and to believe that a few bombs in a few school classrooms will solve everything. As the film reveals in its final segment, the dream ends as soon as the degree course has ended. Godard seems consciously to be admitting that his film will change nothing but that it is nonetheless valuable to at least make his statement.
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Is this a movie? Or something much better?
sleepsev22 January 2002
There are many great things about 'La Chinoise', including its political and historical importance, which have been elaborately discussed by film enthusiasts all over the world, so I'd like to add only my very personal thoughts about this film. Personally, 'La Chinoise' stands very much apart from, if not above, all of the films I've seen. While other films of Godard make me feel they are great movies, 'La Chinoise' doesn't make me feel like that. It makes me feel as if I hadn't seen a film, as if I'd just had a very nice and exciting conversation with friends, as if I'd just had a very lively discussion with them, as if I'd just participated in a hot debate, as if I'd just quarreled with some people. No film ever made me feel like this.

Scenes and dialogues worthy of remembering in 'La Chinoise' are as innumerable as in other films of Godard. Forever imprinted on my memory are the scenes when Leaud can't understand what his girlfriend says without the help of music, the droll assassination scene, and most important of all, the discussion on the train. This train scene looks so simple, yet it is very subtle and powerful. I saw 'La Chinoise' the first time four years ago, and I felt very detached from the movie. Seeing it again, I think it is one of my most favorite now.
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Colour-coded political discussions in Godard's groundbreaking satire
ThreeSadTigers15 June 2008
Godard's second masterpiece of 1967 - the first being Week End - is a brisk social satire on the nature of petty bourgeois revolutionaries playing terrorists from the comfort of their parent's suburban apartment building, presented in the form of an infernal parody of Dostoevsky's The Possessed (1872). The film is famous for two reasons; firstly for predicting the eventual mood and political atmosphere of the events of the following year - with French university students plotting a course for political action and enforced revolution in a way that is highly reminiscent of the eventual proceedings of May, 1968 - and secondly for Godard's increasingly confrontational style of film-making; with his continual experiments with Brechtian inspired alienation techniques employed alongside the once radical appropriation of abstract design concepts, pop art and psychedelia.

Like the third film of Godard's '67 trio, 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her, La Chinoise is presented as a series of dialogues and sketches that establish the political climate of the period, the nature of the characters and their various relationships with one another, and finally, their all encompassing views and opinions on concepts such as Maoism, the war in Vietnam and their position as Marxist-Leninists. In the past, many have misinterpreted the film as being Godard's ode to Maoism, working almost as a piece of socio-political propaganda in a similar way to how the influence of Marx is sometimes wrongly interpreted on the thematic foundation of the aforementioned Week End. However, I can't image that Godard was being entirely earnest with his depiction of a self-appointed student commune tackling the issues of the day in a series of absurd role-playing games, forthright discussions and the eventual urge for violence, but rather, using this absurd and provocative notion as a springboard to a series of more interesting, ideological discussions.

As a result, attempting to explain the deeper subtext of La Chinoise in any kind of greater detail can be a daunting task. I myself don't fully understand every facet of what Godard was attempting to say with the film. Like many, I can only approach it on a personal level by making assumption and describing the experience. Though the ultimate intent of Godard, the political background of the film and the satirical nature of the presentation can all be seen as off-putting to those of us disconnected, either geographically or generationally from the events of this period, the basic foundations of the film and the dynamics between the four or five central characters are immediately recognisable. Though I'm sure that Godard had a great belief in Mao and the teachings of his "little red book" he continually argues against the ideologies of the central characters, either through the use of other, more informed supporting players, or by the subtle use of mise-en-scene; reminding the audience that these characters, although well-read and university educated, are still children, and thus, express themselves through childish games and fancy dress.

As with Week End, the ultimate depiction of the characters here is so contemptuous as to underline Godard's satirical intentions, as they bleat and pontificate amidst the director's onslaught of ironic visual motifs that seem to conspire to make a mockery out of their objectives and ideals. In terms of performances, La Chinoise is one of Godard's best; benefitting from an incredible lead performance from Jean-Pierre Léaud as drama student Guillaume, whose pretension and theatricality make him an obvious and charismatic leader for the group, which here includes Anne Wiazemsky as would-be philosopher Veronique, Juliet Berto as a character reminiscent of a younger incarnation of Marina Vlady's character in "2 or 3 Things" - in terms of her farm girl roots and casual prostitution - and Michel Séméniako as the conflicted and ultimately far more thoughtful of the group, Henri. There is also an appearance from philosopher and radical thinker Francis Jeanson who, in the film's most important scene, criticises the actions of the group as childish and uninformed in a way that adds a great deal of weight to the film's counter argument and indeed, Godard's perspective on his characters.

Unlike "2 or 3 Things", the casting of La Chinoise actually brings something to the film; with the wit and charisma of the students making Godard's attack and more pointed moments of satire easier to digest. However, where the film really succeeds is in Godard's typically bold direction. If you're familiar with any of Godard's previous work of this period, such as Pierrot le fou (1965) and Made in USA (1966), then you'll know what to expect from his characteristic and unique use of production design, shot composition, sound and editing. The hand-painted design of the student's apartment, with the typically Godardian use of primary colours and agitprop slogans stencilled into the mise-en-scene is a fantastic example of how to create an interesting frame on a limited budget, whilst the continual bombardment of Marvel characters to act as ironic signifiers to the heroes and villains of the time, alongside hand-tinted photocopies of political figures that underline the spirit of the central characters, give context to the proceedings.

The look of the film illustrates Godard's fantastic imagination, wit and intelligence; with the use of music - including classical compositions and ironic pop songs - as well as the dialog and performances from the cast making La Chinoise one of the filmmaker's most memorable and successful works. Though mostly a playful film in tone, La Chinoise hints at an escalating air of violence and political unrest that would eventually explode in the final moments of the apocalyptic Week End; while many of the more recognisable themes and stylistic preoccupations developed in those other films from 1967 would be continued in subsequent works such Le Gai savoir (1968) and Comment ca va? (1978). Though many people may find the film hard going or dated even, La Chinoise is, for me at least, one of Godard's most intelligent, interesting and entertaining films from the pinnacle of his career.
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Mao-rock satire masterpiece, by Nouvelle Vague wild-man Jean-Luc Godard
Quinoa198415 October 2007
In 1967, Jean-Luc Godard was sort of on a precipice of his career- right from the genre-bending experimental films that put him as a bizarre art-house hallmark, right before stepping off into going even further, and becoming a full-blown Maoist. How much of what he felt or thought influenced La Chinoise I can't say (never read a biography), but what I can sense from this film is the sense of an inner-contradiction working itself out in the form of a film that is playful and harsh, visually vibrant and emotionally subtle, if not present at all, and a documentary at the same time as a piece of deranged pop theater. In fact, it's a pseudo-documentary, and it's one of the most lucid films that Godard ever conceived, but more than anything La Chinoise acts as a counterpoint to hardcore, fundamental terrorist ideology. I can't be sure what side Godard would take, the young girl played by Wiazemsky who thinks the only way she can go past the reading and the discussion is to go to and start something as a working-class bomb chucker, or the young chemist who decides to drop out of the 'game' of sorts when he keeps seeing that she (Wiazemsky's Veronique, the same placid features which made her tragic in Au hasard Balthazard here make her almost psychotic) doesn't have a real grasp on what she or the other radicals are talking about.

Godard's film is packed with attitude though, so one can't see this as being something of a communist cautionary tale- you can tell that he does find a good deal in the little red book of Mao captivating. We hear a hard-pounding Mao rock song that dances between new anthem and parody. We see Jean-Pierre Leaud going on and on about this or that as the "actor" of the group and aiming arrows at liberal figureheads. When he first says it there's a brilliant sense of momentary self-consciousness as we see the cameraman and the sound-guy shooting, and this later reverts back into what is like a documentary on the fiction of the documentary of the movie if that makes sense. Then classical music rises up, and then cuts off in a flash. Like the characters, there is a sensibility of hope in some change, at least in this case with cinema, in approaching image and montage, composition, primary colors popping out at times like seas of red.

But at the same time he's almost going back and doing his own self-criticism. If one's seen at least one or two or more Godard films, primarily from the 60s, one often sees a character reading from a book on camera, sometimes for a long time. This time we see the characters stripped-down: they have nothing from experience, only from a kind of drunk-the-kool-aid reverence to the red book, with the kids or "guest" lecturers in the classroom scenes going on about it. I liked that, Godard fessing up to the futility of fervent worship, or rather stalwart dedication, to using up all ideas from a text. Aside from Anne Wiazemsky's character- and even she, by the end, just goes back to the way things were- the characters aren't really into practicing what they preach, despite the preaching 'heavy' and the discussion as highly charged as one would expect for 67-going-on-68 (if perhaps, like Easy Rider, anticipating the demise of the power behind a specific counter-cultural group).

Political nerve and rebellion gets criss-crossed with what is and what isn't the truth with these kids; they love Lenin and Marx as much as they love theater and movies acting. It's this loop of goofing around (I love the bit when two of the girls are playing with some contraption as if it were bull's horns, and one guy comes into the apartment and says 'ah, steering wheel'), and pontification that becomes fascinating. The scene on the train, with one shot where suddenly the color goes murky and the tone of the conversation between Veronique and the older man turns towards the realities of violence as a means of political ends, is extraordinary.

If it's at all a great film it's not simply because of Godard's experimentation, which is of course at its peak (he also made Week End the year this came out, his most ambitious and f****d-up film, maybe the craziest mix of statements in one movie ever). On the surface, at least at the start, it looks like another Godard Maoist mumble. Yet like in his earlier work, he puts the ideas back onto the characters, and doesn't make a muck of narration points or too many tangents. Like a documentary, we see the inner-workings and bias of a particular viewpoint. Like theater, it's colorful, hyper-active, entertaining to a weird fault. And like political science it dissects its subjects with some degree of respect for what is being talked about- communism- while never forgetting the damages it causes.
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rbloom33329 November 2008
Godard's misunderstood film about a cell of Maoist students in 1967 France is not so much an endorsement of revolutionary politics as it is an exploration of it. Although the film clearly contributed to the revolt at Columbia uprising, and later the student May uprising of 1968, this is in fact a highly nuanced account of the variegated tendencies of radicalization among the French youth. We encounter an outdated renunciation of Marxism-Leninism, which sadly converted large swaths of radicalizing youths to Mao in the 1960's, and still has some resonance on the left today. This is a delightful mixture of politics and pop culture as only Godard can provide, that is, with passion and form.
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blame it on my youth
lqualls-dchin20 October 2007
When Godard's LA CHINOISE was initially released, many commented on the fact that his latest movie might be called the further adventures of the children of Marx and Coca-Cola (the designation found in MASCULINE FEMININE). MASCULINE FEMININE had been in black-and-white, and was set in Paris in the winter of 1965-66; LA CHINOISE was in color (amazingly bright, Pop Art primary colors, mostly) and was set in the summer of 1967. Filming was so fast that Godard had the film ready for the Venice Film Festival in September of 1967 (where it won the Special Jury Award).

Just as MASCULINE FEMININE concerned a group of five friends (two boys, three girls), so LA CHINOISE has a group of five friends as its focus (two girls, three boys). The political discussions which had formed one strand in MASCULINE FEMININE now take over, and the film is about the political discourse which became so much a part of the radical Left in the period of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Yet though the film may seem didactic, it is also very tender in its regard for the protagonists. As with MASCULINE FEMININE, the film is filled with close-ups which show Anne Wiazemsky, Jean-Pierre Leaud, Juliet Berto and the others at their most open and vulnerable, for all the political posturings.

Again, as with MASCULINE FEMININE, LA CHINOISE is one of those movies that seemed to sum up the times for many of us who saw the film on its initial release: it just seemed to capture our lives with an immediacy and a relevancy that was startling. No filmmaker before or since has seemed to be able to be so contemporary. Now that period is part of the past, and the immediacy has been replaced by nostalgia, yet there remains a vitality that has kept this movie fresh.

Plus that "Mao, Mao" pop song is impossible to forget once you've heard it.
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One of the greatest movies ever.
ido_h15 March 2000
Shot a few months before his next masterpiece, La Chinoise is perhaps Godard's best film. The bourgeois Leninist-Communist struggle our commune is doing is both extremely tragic as is a comic one. The film is titled also 'a film in a making' and the film is indeed in a making with all the usual godard tricks such as actors talking to the camera, interviews showing the camera and the production men and so on. But these tricks come not without reason as we witness the group's struggle with what godard was struggling at the time: the fight in two ways. The artistic and the politic one. Godard as well known decided in 1968, a year after this film that 'a political intellectual has only one way to become one: stop being an intellectual' (this is not the precise quoting). This film struggles with some of the most modern and post-modern issues such as the function of language, and the implausibility of the fight against capitalism, and the modern necessity of being a bourgeois and a consumer. the only struggle that is possible is perhaps through art (theater) which is what our heroes do, and what godard is doing. and perhaps he had that notion all through his communistic period. Godard is for me the best Director ever. Each film is like a manifest. each line is poetry. each word is a world.

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LA CHINOISE (Jean-Luc Godard, 1967) ***
Bunuel19768 April 2006
Not an easy film to comment on, or even appreciate, given its overt political content - but also the fact that I watched it, without the benefit of English subtitles, on French TV (amusingly, the French ones which accompanied the screening could hardly keep up with Godard's typically loquacious script!); unfortunately, my reception of this cable channel - which has been showing some pretty good, even rare, titles for years - hasn't been perfect in recent times...but, in spite of all this, I still couldn't afford to miss out on one of Godard's most famous films, right?

Anyway, the director's best and worst qualities are well in evidence here: with an obvious emphasis on the color red, it's visually stimulating, indeed overwhelming (as, frustratingly, Godard often puts text in his images while the characters are speaking!), and filled with both sight and sound gags (the French song about Mao and the 'little red book' is hysterical), in-jokes (Godard's voice is often heard indistinctly interviewing the characters) and innumerable pop-culture references. However, it's undeniably exhausting to follow in detail, with the relentless spouting of Communist ideology and wordplay sometimes going over my head in the process...and, by the end, it all sort of runs out of steam anyway - what with most of the characters giving up on their enclosed life-style of theorizing and taking up menial jobs instead, apparently to put in practice what they had so far merely preached - or something similarly similar (why, it's gotten me mouthing abstractions, now!). The young cast is headed by popular "Nouvelle Vague" (and, apparently, politically-involved) stars such as Jean-Pierre Leaud, Anne Wiazemsky - who, for a while, became Mrs. Godard - and Juliet Berto.

Still, the film's anarchic, anything-goes attitude provides a good deal of amusement throughout; especially enjoyable is Wiazemsky's naïve interview, aboard a train, of a noted literary figure who turned conservative (which rebounds on herself and exposes her own political confusion!) and her own botched assassination attempt towards the end. Despite its necessarily heavy-going and obviously dated nature, LA CHINOISE - which has been released on DVD, though not in R1 land - is not quite the embarrassment that was, say, WHAT STALIN DID TO WOMEN (1969; which I watched only a few days ago)...and it's unfortunate that, for the next decade or so, Godard renounced mainstream cinema for underground political film-making (from which period I still have a couple of titles, British SOUNDS [1969] and ICI ET AILLEURS [1975], lying in my "Unwatched Films On VHS" pile)!
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French student revolutionaries study Marxism and wonder how to put it into action.
treywillwest24 September 2011
I've heard some claim this as Godard's seminal work. I wouldn't say quite that, but its a great, and I think misunderstood, piece of work. Everyone discusses this film as if it were a critique of the May '68 Movement, forgetting that it was released the year before, and probably filmed two years before. Everyone thus views it as a satire of the past, when it fact it is a frightened critique of the contemporary. Godard does indeed think the "Maoists" the film follows are dilettantes, as the May '68 Movement proved to be, primarily, composed of. But he also wants desperately for a more militant presence to assert itself, and lead the contemporary situation into a more legitimately revolutionary direction. The seminal scene of the film is in the last act, when the student radical meets with her professor "radical" on a train. Both sides issue futile maxims. Godard overlays the words "this situation must change!" over their conversation. The pseudo-revolution of the 1960s, Godard prays, can become a real one. In retrospect, this is somber
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Feckless propaganda
theskylabadventure26 June 2014
Roman Polanksi once said that "people like Godard are like little kids playing at being revolutionaries", noting that he had actually grown up surrounded by the realities of communism. As a general rule I would always try to avoid a filmmaker's personal tastes, opinions and politics but, as La Chinoise is essentially a political statement, it's impossible not to let the Godard's politics affect my opinion of it. Sadly, Polanski's comment sums this film up perfectly.

There is no plot. What we are subjected to amounts to little more than a series of vignettes of utterly bourgeois adolescents rambling their tin- pot political philosophies from the comfort of their upper middle class apartments. Was this supposed to be ironic? Or are we supposed to buy into the ideas of these vacuous kids? It fails on both levels. All I wanted to do was give all of them a good slap across the chops and tell them to grow up.

Am I missing the point? Do I just not get it? Perhaps, and I'm fine with that. I truly love some of Godard's films; Vivra Sa Vie, Pierrot Le Fou, Le Mepris. The difference is that all of these films had something or someone for me to care about. The one thing that might have saved La Chinoise for me would have been for all the characters to catch bubonic plague and die horribly. That's would have cheered me up.

Stylistically the film has Godard written all over it but, by the time this film came out (in 1967), these flairs were already wearing a little thin, especially when they're essentially there to veil an utterly feckless piece of propaganda. The only point of vague interest here is the slightly eerie way in which this film precipitated the riots of May 1968. This alone, however, is not worth the 85 minutes of your life you will wish you could have back if you decide to sit through this twaddle.
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Never released on DVD, this Godard film might have more significance remaining obscure
minsker200012 December 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Having prided myself on seeing almost every Godard film, I was thrilled to learn that the National Gallery of Art (in Washington, DC) had secured a copy of LA CHINOISE from the British Museum. I've been waiting to see this film for at least 10 years. The 35 mm print, with its fading color and spotty sound, is one of the few available in the world today (though I've since been informed that bootleg VHS copies, with no translation, can be easily scored in Europe and elsewhere).

As James Travers notes above, this is certainly Godard's most political film. Filmed in 1967, during the Vietnam War, this movie is more a critique of the half-baked philosophies of the student revolutionaries than it is of the war itself. Granted, Godard was quite aware of the stains (left by the colonization of Vietnam) on the French collective unconscious. And he certainly was disgusted by America's arrogant actions towards stopping the spread of communism (which he touches upon in TWO OR THREE THINGS I Know ABOUT HER). But in LA CHINOISE, his political commentary is aimed at the pseudo-intellectual revolutionaries in Paris (predating the Paris 1968 riots) who talk a big game but have difficulties assassinating the right individuals and who morph Marxist philosophies into unrecognizable doctrine that comically controls their lives.

The film, which is not widely known or seen, has keen implications for our world today. In our "post 9-11 world," fundamental terrorists have attacked "Western targets" for their secular views and their secular conventions of society (such as television, internet, business, and art). In Godard's film, the student revolutionaries want to force the "puppet universities" to close because they promote a bourgeois lifestyle and bourgeois attitudes. The irony is that their understanding of Marx or Engles or Mao or Che Guevara comes directly from their experience in said bourgeois institutions. And yet, out of this, they find themselves better than or above the others also seeking knowledge and truth.

Today, in 2004, there are terrorists who reject the secular nature and influence of western culture, and yet they use Microsoft software, Flash, and Adobe Photoshop to broadcast images of beheaded soldiers and civilians -- in a supposed "Anti-western statement." This film, which runs exactly 90 minutes and features some of the best music (reminiscent of Harry Partch at times; other times, it features fuzz 60s rock with lyrics praising all things Mao), points out the ironies of any revolutionary willing to be taught, attend meetings, and go "by the book."

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Just a westerner passing by
StevePulaski3 April 2014
With Jean-Luc Godard's La Chinoise, I think I'm gonna have to play the historical ignorance card. My knowledge of communism/ Marxism/Leninism and most of the other "-isms" in this particular endeavor as well as my knowledge of the social revolution that occurred in France during the sixties is depressingly limited. Sorry, I'm a westerner victim to a public school education.

Godard's La Chinoise is, thus far, his most insufferable endeavor of all his French New Wave films. It's one of the lamest, squarest satires I have yet to see, insufferably telling the same joke (at least I think it's supposed to be funny) of young peoples' devotion to communism and such) over and over, and centering on characters telling having the same conversations over and over again.

The film details the relationship between a group of young revolutionaries (Jean-Pierre Léaud, Juliet Berto, and Anne Wiazemsky) in 1960 France that discuss their fondness for the teachings of Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, Mao Zedong, among other key figures that promoted their own ideas, as well as regarding communism with such fascination. Whether we're supposed to marvel at the vapidness of the characters or support them as they anxiously discover and embrace numerous different ways of thinking is beyond me. It seems with every scene Godard wants us to think differently of these characters, and by the end, I have no idea what to take away from the characters or their groggy conversations.

Thankfully, we have the use of Raoul Coutard's inimitable cinematography and Godard's fascinating pop-art style to marvel at, making La Chinoise a stimulating visual experience. In a Godard film that often feels repetitive and muddled, the visuals take prominence, and Godard shows his appreciation for bold color as well as pop-art once more with this effort. The whole thing is attractive if, like its characters, feels superficial in the long-run.

Having said all that, I can still see how La Chinoise was a daring work for 1967 France. I've already spoke quite a bit about how Godard defied popular cinematic convention, but with La Chinoise and his later, ore political works, he challenged majority viewpoints it seems and became a voice for a generation in many regards. What went from bourgeois, coffee shop/film club banter found a home inside a film, one that defied norms of cinema up until this point. The bright colors, the enthusiastic use of title-cards, and characters showing their appreciation for complex political theory all seemed to connect with mainstream audiences.

However, what about people with no background as to this time period? Did Godard think this film would go on to be an oddity for French cinema? What about for those with no idea as to Leftist thinking or the figures the film name-drops so frequently? This is where I play the ignorance card; La Chinoise doesn't provide us with any kind of backstory or precedent to those unsure of the time period. Because of this, it's difficult to catch on if you're just a stray viewer.

The only idea I can bring to La Chinoise is it's a clever joke on Godard's behalf to try and gain access to the minds of these Leftist thinkers and get on their side by communicating to them, using "-isms" they'll surely know how to use, while ultimately making fun of them. These are characters that have no idea how political empires or divisions operate, so they stew in their own blissful ignorance (kind of like me in this case), acting as if they have the answers to society's problems by proposing ideology and not thinking twice if it sticks or not.

If I'm completely off, excuse my ignorance. Again, just a public school-educated westerner passing by.

Starring: Jean-Pierre Léaud, Juliet Berto, and Anne Wiazemsky. Directed by: Jean-Luc Godard.
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What a film.
tcorgat21 January 2012
Godard's La Chinoise is truly a remarkable and utterly unique film. This one and Week end are both the highlights of his progression from his earlier new wave, Hollywood inspired films, to more experimental and avant-garde ones. For those interested in good stories and plot this one will be a bore. For those that are also interested in good directing, camera shots, angles, long takes, brilliant cinematography (man the red colours), minimalism, cool editing of both sound and picture, La Chinoise is exactly what they want.

It's very important to be familiar with the time period (late sixties), in both culture and politics. And of course, with communism, especially Maoism. Now some people may think of this film as an "ode to communism", while others may say that it's more like tongue-in-cheek. Whatever it may be, the film is simply brilliant.

What we have is bunch of young people in an apartment, reading books, quoting Mao, having discussions, presentations and witty dialogue, about loads of subjects such as: Love, Vietnam war, Communism, capitalism, language, terrorism, knowledge, etc. That is the whole plot of the film, but the film language here is much more deep and rich, as mentioned before.

My rating is pure 10/10.
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meet again
patriciabarone24 December 2004
In Japan, La Choise was put on the market as DVD in last year. Although I obtained to view it after some hesitation, the work by Godard in 1967 was brought to very beautiful digitized pictures. About four decades ago, I remembered having seen the poster that was stuck on the wall filled in the graffiti of a political slogan in the movie research club room of an university, although I did not view this work itself. In the poster, Anne Wiazemsky of makeup of Red Guard, wearing the Mao cap and the Mao jacket, hanged up Little Red Book highly with the right hand. The background of the poster was cranberry red. In this movie, the color of white and red is used for symmetry as metaphor. Former suggests bourgeois communism in Western countries, and latter suggests Maoism.

A movie starts in the white mansion house in the Paris suburbs. To study Maoism, the five women and men congregate to live a communal life in residence with a white interior and exterior wall that elaborated the intention on the furniture of a bourgeois hobby. We scoped out the setting for Beijing Weekly Report, Mao cap, and much Little Red Book. Those movie property emboss petite bourgeois radicalism. Although Godard was disgusted with the bourgeois Western communism, zeitgeist at the time shared a similar perspective between the young intelligentsia and students having the leftist ideology of Western Europe. The energy in such a spirit of the age was committed to the Maoism, and praised the Cultural Revolution. In Western countries, it was only catastrophe and It is few persons' sacrifice and ended. When on the train Anne Wiazemsky and Professor Francis Jeanson debate the revolution, she sits down toward a direction of movement against the background of the train window, but he sits down conversely. We know the history that the train goes to the destination of violence, destruction, and genocide. Although Godard in those days must have sat down on the same seat of Anne, of course, probably, he must have got off without going to the terminal station. The scene of the conversation in that train suggests ambivalence of Godard himself. In 1968 of the next year when this film-making was done, we encountered The Paris May Revolution. It passed away after febrile delirium. Almost all young intelligentsia and students of those days in the Western countries as well as Godard must have got off. I did so.

When about four decades have passed away, we now know The Cultural Revolution in China as a struggle for power at Beijing Zhongnanhai, Vietnam War as a southing to occupy by North Vietnam, a genocide in The Cultural Revolution in China, a genocide by the Pol Pot Administration of Maoism, and also collapse of communism itself. I can now view this movie calmly.
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not for the new dilettantes that follow the likes of Jeremy Corbyn in the UK.
I seem to recall being somewhat perplexed when seeing this back in the day, being so much older then and all that. Even seeing it later I thought of it as a seeming glib comment on the student activity in Paris at the time. That student activity was of course a year or two later and this is Goddard anticipating, not only the event, but the nature of it and its predominance of white middle class kids playing at revolution. The look is great with boldly painted interiors and vivid and provocative mix of graphics. The director's eclectic use of music, pop and otherwise, is also evident in this important if not easy to watch film of the sixties. Performances are also very good here and surprisingly so given the confusing nature of the enterprise wth cameras on camera and voices off. Definitely worth a watch but probably not for the new dilettantes that follow the likes of Jeremy Corbyn in the UK.
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While Godard would develop a reputation as a political firebrand, this film affectionately pokes fun at the drive to revolution in his young subjects
crculver18 October 2015
In 1966, Jean-Luc Godard made the acquaintance of some young members of the French Left who felt a strong pull towards Maoism. By looking to China, they sought to escape the traditional division of the French Left into supporters of the Soviet Union, which had lost its revolutionary fervour, and Trotskyist parties, which were impotent. (Of course, at the time the West was still generally unaware of the horrific toll of Mao's policies.) Godard, whose sociological curiosity and political engagement was strong in these years, decided to study this phenomenon, and the result is LA CHINOISE. While Godard would eventually go on to make a few films that were so didactically political that one felt bludgeoned by the message and watching was no fun, this one surprised me in how entertainingly its plot played out and how astute its observations were.

In a Parisian flat borrowed for the summer while one member's parents are away, a group of young radicals lodge together and fancy themselves a revolutionary cell. Chief among them are Guillaume (Jean-Pierre Léaud), Véronique (Anne Wiazemsky) and Yvonne (Juliet Berto). They read daily from Mao, decrying the Soviet Union and French society, and practicing their demagoguery for their occasional attempts to bring their message into the streets. Gradually, they come to decide that terrorism is necessary to achieve their goals, and they gang up on the sole dissenter from violence and kick him out of the flat. Francis Jeanson, a French academic and opponent of the war in Algeria, as well as Wiazemsky's actual thesis adviser, appears as himself in a scene where he attempts to dissuade Véronique from violence, asking just how much support from the oppressed masses does this sheltered girl think she has.

As desperate as he was for a cause to uphold, I don't believe that Godard really committed himself deep down to Maoism or revolutionary socialism in general. His bitterness against the staid French status quo is palpable, and he likes how the French Maoists at least recognized a need for change, but LA CHINOISE affectionately criticizes its subjects more than it celebrates them. Rather than presenting Maoism convincingly as a way forward, LA CHINOISE ultimately suggests it was only the most recent expression of the drive to rebellion that appears afresh in every young generation. While these characters are Maoists, he borrowed the basic outlines of the plot from Dostoyevsky, who described a set of young radicals well before Marxism-Lenin. The filmmaker underscores how such idealistic young people takes themselves too seriously, he shows their adoption of Maoist art as a sort of fashion statement, their use of Maoist terminology as the latest hip slang.

There are some fun touches here, the acerbic humour and amusing dialogue that Godard brought to his storytelling. The occasional use of Brechtian distancing techniques, like when Guillaume suddenly breaks character and talks to cinematographer Raoul Coutard, lead the viewer to reflect more on what is happening. And in spite of Godard's revolutionary sentiments, LA CHINOISE maintains a dialogue with the film tradition (cinephiles will chuckle at the avant-garde snippet that occasionally pops up in the soundtrack, a clear nod to Ingmar Bergman's film PERSONA).

Like Godard's early colour films, this is also a visual pleasure. Much of the first half of the film seems to me a study of faces: Léaud's famous expressiveness, Wiazemsky's quirky overbite and distinct way of moving her mouth to the left when talking, and Berto's sad eyes. The set design is clever, full of little details. (It's great that the film has been re-released in Blu-Ray, so viewers can appreciate all those touches in high-definition.) I wouldn't recommend LA CHINOISE to someone who had not seen Godard's earlier films, but I rate this pretty highly among his body of work and believe that it will impress anyone who has developed a love for this auteur's style.
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What if soy milk is really just regular milk introducing itself in Spanish?
tieman6418 January 2014
Warning: Spoilers
"Only the guy who isn't rowing has time to rock the boat." - Sartre

Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote "Demons" in 1872, a novel about a group of young radicals in pre revolutionary Russia. Based loosely on Dostoevsky's tale, Jean-Luc Godard's "La Chinoise" watches as five young activists spend their summer vacation in a small apartment belonging to "wealthy factory owners who are out of town". Here they study Mao's "Little Red Book", a collection of writings on Chinese communism.

"La Chinoise's" first two act take place almost entirely within the group's apartment. Red, blues and whites – the colours of the French national flag – dominate. Stacks of Maoist literature line the walls and plastic toys litter the floors. A radio blasts Chinese news reports and occasionally silly Maoist pop songs. We're then introduced to Guillaume (Jean-Pierre Leaud), Veronique (Anne Wiazemsky), Yvonne, Henri and Kirlov, the only character named after a corresponding character in "Demons". It is implied that Veronique's relatives own the apartment. The kids are all in their late teens and early twenties, some prostitutes, others timid intellectuals, others related to bankers. "I'm ashamed of my wealth," Veronique says.

"La Chinoise's" aesthetic is now familiar, but back in the 1960s was deemed novel. Told in stylised bursts, this is a confusing amalgamation of agitprop, reality TV, documentary, cartoon, Brecht and conventional fiction. Like most of Godard's films, things only coalesce and take on power with repeated viewings. Godard hoped such a style would "shatter bourgeois aesthetics!", but of course the opposite proved true. Instead of a militant aesthetic (what he called "socialist theatre") which radicalised viewers and instigated change, audiences turned up their noses to what they deemed elitist and incomprehensible.

Ironically, the film itself is about "clarity" and "gibberish". "We should replace vague ideas with clear images," one sign reads, whilst another kid states that it is "necessay to bring about the subjective and objective conditions that make revolution possible and render the use of force feasible". In short, they want to overthrow capitalism. The problem? How and what then? "There are different kinds of communism," one kid says, "different shades of red to choose from." Russian Communism, he then points out, does not truly incur the wrath of imperialist America. Chinese Communism, on the other hand, warrants the shelling of Southeast Asia and the escalation of fighting in Vietnam. Surely Maoism is thus "the right way"; a bigger threat to the status quo.

This certainty is contested throughout the film. The kids are shown to be narrow-minded, sheltered, annoying, blind to ideological contradictions and nuances, uninterested in anything outside Mao and lost in their own private bubbles. They dream whilst the world spins, treating political ideology as just another pair of goofy consumer sunglasses to be picked up and discarded. On the flip side, these youths are sincere and Godard thoroughly sympathises and even agrees with them; after-all, history is littered with pampered folk like this getting the ball rolling on many human rights issues. Takes time, but still; you can't fight stupid.

Godard title is a pun on the phrase "speaking Chinese" (speaking nonsense or gibberish), and also an allusion to "The Italians", a leftist cell beholden to the writings of Antonio Gramsci. Godard's cell, of course, is obsessed with Chinese rather than Italian Communism, they just struggle to morph theory into action. As the film progresses, they also become more militant. "We must suppress undesirable elements that compromise the whole," one morbidly states. Another makes a good point: "revolution costs money but the armies who put them down are free." Guillaume then learns the concept of "struggling on two fronts", which Godard turns into a specific metaphor: the revolution fights itself, its own failings and limitations, as much as the enemy.

Veronique, the only character to come from wealth, eventually hatches a plan to both assassinate a visiting Soviet Minister and bomb a university. "Cut off one finger to save ten," her buddies nod like robots, and then: "We must participate in changing reality. Revolutions require terror!". In the film's best scene, Veronique discusses her plans with Francis Jeanson, a real life philosopher who was once arrested for supporting Algerian independence movements (Algeria was once a colony ruled by the French Empire). Jeanson sympathetically stresses nonviolence, seeks to talk Veronique out of her blood-lust, but she doesn't listen. If you're looking to change the rules, why start by abiding by them? Godard's shot composition is ominous: Veronique's hurtling toward history, a history to which Jeanson's back is firmly turned to.

The film ends with Veronique's terrorist attacks comically failing. The group then disbands, one member committing suicide, another quitting his job, another emigrating. "Sound and fury scare me," he admits, gobbling down food in a parody of consumerism run amok. As for Guillaume, he's enveloped back into the folds of capitalism, selling fruit and metaphorically assaulted by rotten vegetables. Occasionally he visits the "Year Zero Theatre", in which he symbolically chooses who to free: a plump woman, or a skinny girl, both knocking on an invisible door. Year Zero, of course, alludes to the group's longed for day of victory. "All roads lead to Peking", a sign says, but it's a long walk. "I thought I made a leap forward," Veronique admits, "but it was but a small, timid step on a long march." The group's apartment is then sealed shut, and with it a zeitgeist, Veronique's relatives excavating rooms and unceremoniously dumping Mao's red books. Silly girl, they think. Then came 1968, in which the May day strikes (the Tet Offensive occurred weeks earlier) promptly made a fortune-teller of Godard. Here, over 11 million French workers/students took to the streets, 22 percent of the country striking. France's economy crawled to a halt. This little mini-revolution ended two weeks later, partially betrayed, no less, by the French Communist Party. Henceforth Europe's left-wing became increasingly right. Godard would slip into depression.

8.5/10 – See Fassbinder's "Third Generation".
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Goddard knows. He warned us.
rotildao8 April 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Well, it is a great Goddard. Touches in a subject that is presently seen in Brasil. The fall of the so called "political last hope", the left wing. What the french and Chinese felt 30 or 40 some years ago is now reflecting within our delayed and useless democracy. By the way, democracy does not exist, and never did anywhere, period. Anyway, the film's form, symbolisms and dialogs (which are great) are deliberately constructed to catch the intellectualized audience attention. Why? First, it's Goddard. Second, he is showing his frustration towards a society in the turn of tides. Goddard knows his generation has failed, like many did, and the future is in the hands of clueless people who may not even know what their ideals were. There are many conflicts present in the film, and like any transition period in life conflicts will occur with various opinions about the same subject; however, use to have one symbolic goal, from now on the results will create individual solutions, and instead of uniting people they will actually divide us all and distract us from the importance of communion. The "needing" of one another as a society will be incorporated into peoples lives as a simple need to succeed in a capitalistic world where any person becomes replaceable and without self identity. This is what Goddard, back in 68, was trying to tell us. Did he accomplished that? Well, look at how many people care to vote or comment on this movie and how many did on Star Wars. The shrinking importance of subject in films shows us the importance of visual effects, how's that for a comparison? Goddard knew it all the time what was to come.
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La chinoise (1967)
MartinTeller4 January 2012
I will give Godard due credit for his filmmaking skill and innovation. This movie, like most of his, is marked by a playful sense of humor, unusual editing technique, and a bold palette of primary colors. But good lord, the rhetoric. Perhaps more than in any other of his films, he has people doing that thing which drives up the goddamn wall: reading straight from a book. In this case, mostly Mao's little red book. If you like people constantly spewing didactic slogans at you in a monotone voice, this is the movie for you. The best part is that Godard appears to be poking fun at these young, bourgeois Marxists. It seems like Anne Wiazemsky's character wants to become a revolutionary terrorist just to get out of going to class. But this is also the worst part, because I view Godard as on par with them. He's a wealthy, privileged white guy playing Commie, sneering at everyone else. "Look at how clueless THESE little hypocrites are, but I'M the real deal." Phooey.
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A delightful film about sects
eabakkum25 April 2012
Warning: Spoilers
I like the films of Jean-Luc Godard, because they are so intimately intertwined with this rebellious and bizarre episode of my youth. Rebellion has infested my brain, and by now this bacteria has completely taken over command. As such, of all his films La Chinoise has perhaps made the deepest impression on me. It is amazing, it opens unsuspected horizons for you. Godard is a child of his time, and loves to break established Rules and do what God forbids. Hence the label Nouvelle Vague (don't call it New Wave!). At the same time the piece is hopelessly outdated. True, Mao had original theoretical concepts about politics, and it is not surprising that his little Red Book became popular, especially among students. After all, the church was in decline and no longer able to guarantee the flow between the lower and higher strata, thus creating room for new ideologies. Unfortunately Mao and his bunch made an attempt to realize their heaven on earth. They called it the Cultural Revolution. At the time, the Dutch-French film-maker Joris Ivens produced some impressive propaganda films about it. Especially the French, since 1789, love anything that vaguely looks like a revolution. The REAL result for the Chinese people can be seen for instance in the recent Chinese film To Live. It is ugly. Here in Europe things went better. The ideas of the Cultural Revolution inspired some European intellectuals with Maoist sympathies to give up the university, and mingle with the common workers. Others formed collectives, who supplied cheap medical and judicial services to the people. Actually not such a bad thing, as long as you could stand their ideological humbug. However, if you use the Red Book as a new bible, and apply the ideas without any knowledge of men, of course you may end with bizarre conclusions. This is what happens here. This is what Godard, freed of proved and professional wisdom, throws on the screen. This is Godard at his best. Godard uses techniques like the interview, the monologue, the flash, which to an amateur may look, ahem, amateurish. Five young adults learn the Rules in the Red Book, but don't actually understand them. Just like other sects, the predictable result is extremism and self-destruction. Godard does not portray Maoism, but ideological fanaticism in general. This is heavy stuff. Luckily, Godard the liberator saves us, with the Nouvelle Vague brilliantly keeping aloof (is this English?). The trick of Godard is the play of the youngsters. For instance when they entertain themselves with toy guns or toy fighter jets. Or when they paint slogans on the walls. When they do exercises on the balcony. When a girl and a boy sit like a languid couple, and suddenly the girl breaks up their relation (boy, dumbfounded: Why do you say this? Girl: You'll understand). When a member is expelled from the sect, and wonders: shall I take a job, or else migrate to Bolshevist Germany? Questions of life, presented in blank naiveté. The music supports the absurdity of the situations. It is almost a symphony, with the phrases of Mao as the delightful songs. In short, it is amazing, rewarding. Having written this, unfortunately not every potential materializes. Does Godard really liberate us, so that we can retire in heaven, with private swimming pools around each corner? Will access to the Hall of Eternal Glory be granted? I fear that somewhere between the screen and the hall, this produce will find an inglorious ending in a drawer of the archives.
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I lived this film!
hfrank30 April 1999
La Chinoise shows the lives of students living in a "Maoist Collective" which was actually a rather bourgeois borrowed apartment. The film shows the contradiction between their lives and their political commitment. In a very real way it it is an example of Maoist criticism/self-criticism. The film also explores the impossiblity of communication between people. It is based on a true story!
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childish revolutionary movements of Students
osmangokturk23 January 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Godard's protagonists carry cigarettes in their hand or mouths and are careless roamers, La chinoise is not an exception.

Small red books are everywhere. the book shelves are full of it, and the revolutionary students are reading passages out of it. Godard, throughout the film bores audience by reading the passages from these books to convince people that these proverbial sentences are nothing but boresome youth time killer political clichés.

Since no one expect Godard to lecture us through a film, the important thing is the overall story. Students are romantising the revolution and politics.

The movie contains many references to the then political and ideological events in the world. Godard very frankly and childishly narrate the revolutionary students movements. They are at the end students, living in student quartiers and eating bread and tartiner.

This is a film about childish aspect of revolutionary student movements. In the movie there are a lot of scenes that need to be connected..
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A mindful of images and ideas.
bobsgrock31 July 2009
This is more of a history and social lesson than a film and perhaps that is what Godard intended. There is no real plot or narrative to speak of, but rather various scenes showing a group of French students in their lair of socialism and Communism as they discuss and digest the many teachings and ideas from Lenin, Stalin, Mao and Marx. One thing I still don't understand about Godard is if he is advocating these beliefs or against them. Still, the film is very well-made with the primary actors giving very believable performances and Godard still messing with the basic fundamentals of film making. There is one great scene that is an unbroken shot of what must be at least 7 or 8 minutes in length. It takes place on a train passing through Paris and shows Anne Wiazmesky talking to a French politician about the cons and pros of revolution and violence. It is interesting to listen to as well as watch. This film is the same way and so is this director, though certainly not for everyone.
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Western Youth Policies
zolaaar2 November 2008
With this film, Godard applies his attention to the awakenings of Maoism and other left wing groupings among the western youth, which became highly dramatic in France and elsewhere just one year later. In this regard, he attempts to press forward an explicit political statement with the story of 5 young students, living together in a commune and studying Mao's bible. In doing so, Godard establishes a very interesting position within commercial cinema - for one thing, by siding with the political line of the Marxism-Leninism, or rather putting its policy up for discussion, for another thing, by giving this film an utterly unspectacular structure which is mostly based on language and reasoning discussions. For long periods, this film has the character of a Brechtian teaching play and does not show the result of thought process, but the fumbling and unsure, often awkward gait of thinking itself between the grueling influences of the exterior environment, politics and history, which Godard quotes as signs and images of pop culture. It's probably not Godard's most engaging film, but it's certainly very intriguing, given the course of history after this film was made.
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