- Le Petit Soldat is actually the second feature Godard made. He shot it in 1960 after Breathless with the intent of releasing immediately- but French censors pushed it to 1963 making it at that point his fourth feature. It also makes for a very busy 1963 from a release standpoint for him with this, Les Carabiniers, and Contempt
- Shot on location in Geneva. Much of it in cars. It is shot in 35mm, black and white, largely handheld camera
- The voice-over is about as dry as it gets
- At 88-minutes, and with the jump cuts (they are there, just not as many, as jarring and as loud as Breathless) removing in-betweens, what is left is really a dense thicket of a narrative. It is almost as if, unlike Breathless, the jumps here remove the mood and atmosphere
- If this would’ve been released as planned it would’ve been Anna Karina’s first archiveable film. It is clear Godard is in love with her while shooting. She lights up the screen- her bangs, eyes and eyelashes. The 20-year old Danish beauty would soon be Godard’s muse and wife (they were married in 1961). The scene of Michel Subor (good-looking but anonymous lead) falling for Karina is really a stand in for Godard. You can even see Godard (and Michel’s character) getting sidetracked from the movie. The best scenes in the movie are flirtation scenes with her- that’s when the film comes alive. Again, partly because Godard shoots her so well, partly because of her charisma and presence, and partly because Subor is a relative non-entity.
- Godard- always the intellectual- discussions and refences to van Gough, Beethoven, Haydn, Mao—and self-referential—a magazine cutout of Jean Seberg is seen.
- Godard’s major stylistic instrument here is the sort of tennis match pan back and forth… he oscillates back and forth between two having dialogue, even from the backseat of a car. He speeds it up at certain points almost making for a whip pan
- Like Breathless, it can be viewed as genre revisionism. This is a spy film (critical of the French position). There’s a foreboding piano score, torture, secrecy. Like Breathless as well, the protagonist is distracted by the girl.
- Recommend but not in the top 10 of 1963
What is your plan for this Godard study? Are you moving in chronological order? I noticed you missed posts on Vivre sa Vie and A Woman is a Woman which came out between Breathless and Le Petit Soldat. But I also understand that it would be difficult and laborious working through his entire filmography, especially his later years.
@Declan- good question- so I’m going in chronological order (of those I can find) with his fiction features (which isn’t always easy to tell especially with Godard). I actually make a quick note here about Le Petit Soldat going next after Breathless on the page— “Le Petit Soldat is actually the second feature Godard made. He shot it in 1960 after Breathless with the intent of releasing immediately- but French censors pushed it to 1963 making it at that point his fourth feature. It also makes for a very busy 1963 from a release standpoint for him with this, Les Carabiniers, and Contempt”
@Drake-I think Le Petit Soldat should be recognised as a 1960 film.TSPDT also list it as a 1960 film. Ebert also recognise it as a 1960 film. It also make more sense that this is Karina’s first archivable film rather than A Woman is a Woman.
@Anderson- thanks for the suggestion. I like where I have it currently.