Le Petit Soldat

Le Petit Soldat ★½

All directors should know what the best already do, that films which boast politically topical content and little else age about as quickly as pure technical demonstrations and milk. If one only watched the best Godard films, the fact that he liked anything other than casting cute girls in radically silly movies designed to trick critics and intelligentsia would never be apparent. Even if one only viewed those in addition to his second-tier output, they'd probably never see the man's ego get too far ahead of him. The fact Le Petit Soldat was produced, not after one, but between two staggering and timeless masterpieces is difficult to comprehend. One should rejoice the man exorcised his lesser muses early, if this was to remain effective only for a time. Do not mistake this as a call for directors, even the one in question, to shy away from political activism. If a filmmaker wants to incite social change, a well made documentary or satire is infinitely more potent than simply boring your audience to death, what with voice-over, monologues and non-characters. Is it histrionic to invoke torture here? This subject matter treated with the same levity and detachment characterizing Breathless would have been truly shocking and insightful, and lent the satirical edge needed to place Godard's politics in league with the big boys like Dr. Strangelove and The Great Dictator. The fact this film was banned at its peak relevancy relegates it to the domain of self-important slacktivism. Real heroes don't make movies like this, they film at ground zero, physically or in spirit; they also don't bother hollowing out the specters of actual war victims and filling them with intellectual hot air.

(Disclaimer: yours truly knows nothing about the Algerian war, Godard's later output, or about anything, but even Resnais' Muriel, or the Time of a Return did far more for me, no doubt because Alain's background was the documentary and not film criticism!)

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