Starring: Anne Wiazemsky, Jean-Pierre Léaud, Juliet Berto
Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Running Time: 95 mins
La Chinoise is a French film about a group of five students belonging to a radical Maoist sect, and their discussions on ideology and the war against the capitalist class.
Ah, Jean-Luc Godard. The man who broke all the rules of cinema in the 1960s, no matter how controversial or unconventional his films may have been. La Chinoise is full of classic Godard tropes, from its political sentiment to non-sequitur style, but it’s fair to say that this is one of Godard’s films that goes a bit too far.
Of course, in the changing political climate of France in the late 1960s, this film was as timely as can be, even if it’s far from a widely accessible political piece for the masses. There’s an irony to much of the film’s ideological rambling that isn’t lost on Godard, but from a modern perspective, it doesn’t make for a particularly gripping watch.
For the most part, the movie is little more than a series of conversations, arguments and even rants all with strongly political overtones, looking at the doctrine of socialism in the past and how the ways of Mao could pave the way for the future of France.
I’ll be honest, the real political message of this film is still a little lost on me, with Godard both expressing his own socialist leanings while also bringing a critical eye to the young fanaticism of the era. The problem with La Chinoise, however, is that it’s often so rambling that – unless you’re deeply engrossed in socialist ideology – it can be an extremely tedious watch.
And that’s where I feel that La Chinoise really falls down in comparison to Godard’s best films. Of course, he’s not a director who has ever made films to be accessible or merely appealing to a wide audience, but this is a case where his eccentric style goes too far, and proves far more of an annoyance than a charismatic and exciting trait.
From the seeming lack of narrative to the contained setting, from the focus on ideology over character to the random editing and pacing, there’s no denying that this film is full of classic Godard hallmarks, but they don’t come together to make a particularly interesting film.
I know that I’m not the target audience for this kind of movie, and watching it for the first time over 50 years after the era which it was really intended for means that I can never claim to have the insight or understanding of what’s really going on beneath the surface.
However, from the perspective of a general audience member who’s a little curious to try something different, I found La Chinoise an unusual yet generally uninteresting film. If you want to get into Godard, look to Alphaville, Pierrot le Fou or Breathless first, because this is just a bit much for mere mortals like me. So, that’s why I’m giving La Chinoise a 6.6 overall.