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Le petit soldat

(The Little Soldier)
France 1960. Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Cast: Michel Subor, Anna Karina, Henri-Jacques Huet, Paul Beauvais, László Szabó

Godard's follow-up to Breathless was the first French film to deal openly with the Algerian crisis then convulsing the country, and was promptly banned by the French government for three years. Both Left and Right condemned the movie for its political ambivalence; the irreverent, Breathless-like use of gangster-film conventions may not have endeared it to such critics either! Michel Subor stars as Bruno, an agent for a French fascist organization sent to assassinate an Algerian Liberation Front (FLN) sympathizer in Geneva. Anna Karina (the future Mrs. Godard, and a mainstay of his cinema through the mid-1960s) makes her screen debut as Véronica, a young informant for the FLN with whom the hero falls in love. The cinematography is by Godard regular Raoul Coutard. Claire Denis paid tribute to Le petit soldat in her 1999 masterpiece Beau Travail (screening at The Cinematheque in January), which cast Subor as an older Bruno. “Will my film be censored? I doubt it. It's an adventure film. I could just as well have invented a story based on the theft of Sophia Loren's jewels” (Godard, 1960). "Romance and political extremism and torture and talk of cinema all suspended in an existential mixture” (Pauline Kael). B&W, 35mm, in French with English subtitles. 88 mins.

 

REVIEWS

"Gradually it becomes clearer that, starting with Le Petit Soldat, Godard was forging his own individualistic art and becoming the most relevant director of our time."

Roger Ebert | full review

"Even this early in his career, Godard knew how to make audiences viscerally experience and contemplate things they might otherwise not have wanted to."

Time Out | full review