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Les Carabiniers

(The Riflemen / The Soldiers)
France/Italy 1963. Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Cast: Marino Masé, Albert Juross, Geneviève Galéa, Catherine Ribeiro, Barbet Schroeder

Godard’s odd, absurdist anti-war fable met with such extreme critical and popular hostility upon its original release that it was hastily withdrawn from Parisian cinemas! “Half a century later, it is one of Godard’s most curious films, as visually rich as it is tonally coarse and blunt” (New York Film Festival). The film has two simpleminded peasants — ironically named Ulysses and Michelangelo — gleefully going off to plunder and pillage for King and Country. They accumulate a hilarious collection of postcards of their conquests along the way — “the first of the great Godard catalogues, and its power is magical” (James Monaco) — and return as heroes, but things change after a peace treaty is signed. Les Carabiniers is shot in a grainy, high-contrast black-and-white style meant to evoke early cinema and old newsreels; there are wry references to the primitive movies of the Lumières, and definite echoes of Alfred Jarry’s absurdist masterpiece Ubu Roi. Roberto Rossellini collaborated on the script. “Godard's strangest movie ... Perhaps the most usefully extreme film of its kind ever made” (Tony Rayns, Time Out). B&W, 35mm, in French with English subtitles. 80 mins.

 

REVIEWS

"Jean-Luc Godard set out in 1963 to deliberately make a war film that would be neither dramatically involving nor formally compelling — and he succeeded so brilliantly that the film was seen as a disaster."

Chicago Reader | full review

"Godard has chosen a subject on which to exercise his style. The result is one of his most successful films, and, incidentally, one easier to understand and enjoy than his later work."

Roger Ebert | full review