Made in U.S.A.
Jean-Luc Godard's Made in U.S.A. is not the celluloid holy grail, but it's close enough. Four decades after its New York premiere in 1967, the least-seen, most quintessential movie of Godard's great period lights up a screen at Dallas' Angelika Film Center at 9:15 p.m. Friday as part of the U.S.A. Film Festival.
Made in U.S.A. is, at least nominally, a political noir. Like Band of Outsiders (1964), it's a thriller about people acting as if they're living in a movie. "You can fool the movie audience, but not me," the star, Anna Karina, tells someone. Made in U.S.A. is self-reflexive as well as self-conscious: When characters speak, it's often to speculate on the nature of language or note the time passing.
Made in U.S.A
Written and directed by Jean-Luc Godard. Starring Anna Karina. Plays Friday as part of the U.S.A. Film Festival.
Even more than the half-dozen previous films in which Godard directed Karina, Made in U.S.A. is a portrait of the filmmaker's soon-to-be ex-wife—here cast as a private investigator, wrapped in a trench coat and packing a gat. Godard told an interviewer that he had been inspired to remake Howard Hawks' 1946 version of The Big Sleep, revived that summer in Paris, with Karina in the Bogart role. As The Big Sleep has a notoriously impenetrable plot, so Made in U.S.A. represents Godard's most sustained derangement of narrative convention. The key sequences are regularly pulverized just at the point of resolution, and crucial passages of dialogue are purposefully obscured by street noise as, alternately seductive and indifferent, Karina's detective goes in search of a lover who is apparently lost, perhaps to assassination, in a labyrinthine, never fully explained, international political intrigue.
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Made in U.S.A. is anti-capitalist and anti-consumerist, decrying miniskirts and rock 'n' roll as mind control, but it's also more devoted to the vulgar modernism of mid-20th-century pop culture than any movie Godard made before or would make after. "I think advertising is a form of fascism," Karina's character asserts, speaking for the director. It's a valid complaint and a poignant one, given that Made in U.S.A. is a constant advertisement for itself. —J.Hoberman