Made in USA (1966)
|With its giddily complex noir plot and color-drenched widescreen images, Made in U.S.A was a final burst of exuberance from Jean-Luc Godard’s early sixties barrage of delirious movie-movies. Yet this chaotic crime thriller and acidly funny critique of consumerism—starring Anna Karina as the most brightly dressed private investigator in film history, searching for a former lover who might have been assassinated—also points toward the more political cinema that would come to define Godard. Featuring characters with names such as Richard Nixon, Robert McNamara, David Goodis, and Doris Mizoguchi, and appearances by a slapstick Jean-Pierre Léaud and a sweetly singing Marianne Faithfull, this piece of pop art is like a Looney Tunes rendition of The Big Sleep gone New Wave.|
Editor's NoteMADE IN U.S.A. is vanguard Nouvelle Vague director Jean-Luc Godard?s great lost masterwork. Filmed during the height of his most fertile cinematic period (between 1960 and 1967), it?s loosely based on THE JUGGER, a pulp crime novel by Donald E. Westlake. Distribution of the film was long suppressed due to a legal battle between the film?s producers and Westlake over unpaid adaptation rights. In the decades since its 1967 American premiere at the New York Film Festival, Godard?s incendiary strike against cinematic convention and mid-20th-century pop culture remains as vibrant, stridently political, and essential as ever. The film stars the director?s soon-to-be ex-wife, Anna Karina, as a private investigator (Paula Nelson) searching for her missing boyfriend, Richard P. (a victim of assassination or political intrigue never fully explained), and the deliberately labyrinthine plot follows a trail of dead bodies, cartoon-like violence, and a deluge of leftist rhetoric--no doubt informed by the turbulent events of late-?60s France. Jarring edits and the clash of street noise threaten to raze pertinent plot details what is perhaps Godard?s most conspicuous effacement of narrative and cinematic convention. Notwithstanding some impenetrable plot details, the director?s typical self-reflexivity and allusion to film history have never been as deliriously satiric or knowingly capricious. Visually, MADE IN U.S.A. is steeped in a kaleidoscopic whimsy of comic-strip panels and Mod colors--Karina at one point even declares, presumably directly to the audience, "We were in a political movie?Walt Disney with blood." Elsewhere, bar patrons indulge in a discussion about semiology, and even Marianne Faithfull shows up, singing an a capella version of her "As Tears Go By." Though largely critical of the byproducts of American cultural imperialism, MADE IN U.S.A. is political polemic mixed with a dash of Hollywood sentiment, invoking, as it does, Howard Hawk?s 1946 version of THE BIG SLEEP, and noir directors Sam Fuller and Nicholas Ray, whom Godard inscribes in the film?s dedication: "taught me about picture and sound."
Cast & Crew
|Jean-Luc Godard - Director|