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Pop goes Wittgenstein

By JEFFREY GANTZ  |  February 18, 2009

"FOR ME, ADVERTISING IS A FORM OF FASCISM" | That's Paula speaking in Made in USA. Sounds like Godard, as well. But, uh, isn't that an advertising poster for Vivre sa vie we see in Contempt?

LETTER TO ANNA | The throughline in Godard's '60s films is Karina — even when she's not in them. Their marriage got off to a bad cinematic start when her character gets killed in Le petit soldat. He let her be a woman in A Woman Is a Woman, but then in Vivre sa vie she's a prostitute who gets shot. In Contempt, Brigitte Bardot's Camille has a scene where she wears Karina's short, black Vivre sa vie wig; she dies too. In Alphaville (by which time they're divorced), Karina's Natasha von Braun is an automaton and the Godard stand-in, Eddie Constantine's Lemmy Caution, has to teach her how to love; in Pierrot le fou, the Godard character (played by Jean-Paul Belmondo) shoots her, then blows himself up. In Alphaville she reads poetry (Paul Éluard); in Made in USA, her last feature for Godard, she destroys it. Godard finished Made in USA while he was starting Two or Three Things I Know About Her. "Her" in that movie is Paris, and it's Marina Vlady's Juliette Janson, but it's also Karina.

FIN? | Shot a month after the rest of the film, Made in USA's spacious and three-dimensional final scene could be from a different movie. Paula has been liberated from her washed-out make-up and zombie demeanor; she's spontaneous, animated. She grabs a ride with Europe 1 radio journalist Philippe Labro (played by real-life Europe 1 radio journalist Philippe Labro) and they talk politics. The romantic Larghetto from Schumann's Spring Symphony surges on the soundtrack, untruncated. Philippe tells Paula that the concepts of left and right are out of date, that one can't put it like that anymore. "Alors, comment?" asks Paula — "Well, then, how?" No answer from Philippe. (Did Mike Nichols see this movie before making The Graduate?) Paula plays with her hair. Cut — mid gesture, mid music — to that red, white, and blue "FIN." Godard's end, our beginning.

BREATHLESS | February 19 at 3:40 pm; March 5 at 8 pm
MADE IN USA | February 20 at 8:10 pm; February 21 at 12:40 pm; February 22 at 1 pm; February 26 at 3:45 pm; February 28 at noon
A WOMAN IS A WOMAN | February 21 at 2:40 pm
PIERROT LE FOU | February 22 at 3:15 pm
MASCULINE-FEMININE | February 27 at 6 pm; March at 6 pm
VIVRE SA VIE | February 27 at 8:15 pm; March 1 at 3:45 pm; March 5 at 5:45 pm; March 6 at 8:15 pm; March 7 at 11 am
TWO OR THREE THINGS I KNOW ABOUT HER | February 28 at 2 pm
CONTEMPT | March 1 at 11 am; March 7 at 1:15 pm
BAND OF OUTSIDERS | March 1 at 1:15 pm
ALPHAVILLE | March 7 at 33:30 pm

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Related: Review: I'm Gonna Explode, A cinematographer and his masterpiece, Review: Big Shoes: Walking and Talking the Blues, More more >
  Topics: Features , Entertainment, Movies, Film Criticism,  More more >
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