Sunday, August 05, 2018

The Little Soldier

Written and directed by Jean-Luc Godard, Le Petit Soldat (The Little Soldier) is the story of a young man who is being asked by French intelligence to kill an official who is believed to be a double agent where he ends up falling for a young woman who is supposedly working for the opposition. Set during the Algerian War, the film is an exploration of a man trying to not get involved only to be caught in the middle of an uneasy conflict. Starring Michel Subor, Anna Karina, and Henri-Jacques Huet. Le Petit Soldat is a riveting and chilling film from Jean-Luc Godard.

The film revolves around a young man who is a spy living in Geneva, Switzerland as he is asked by French intelligence to kill a man who is suspected to be a double agent working for the National Liberation Front of Algeria (FLN). Along the way, he meets a young woman who is supposedly working for the FLN as he falls for her which would complicate his mission. Jean-Luc Godard’s screenplay uses a simple premise to play into a man being caught in the middle of this conflict as the French spy Bruno Forestier (Michel Subor) as he remains wanted in France for refusing to enlist in the French army during the Algerian War where much of the film is told from his perspective as he would narrate everything he endures. He works in Geneva as a journalist as his cover yet French intelligence officials want him to kill a man and not get enlisted but things get complicated when he meets Veronica Dreyer (Anna Karina) whom he falls for though he is unsure if she’s affiliated with the FLN.

Godard’s direction does have elements of style in his approach to long takes and intimate shots as well as shooting scenes on actual locations as it is shot on location in Geneva and other parts of Switzerland. While Godard would shoot some wide shots of Geneva and various locations, much of his approach is focused on the action involving Bruno and the French intelligence officials he’s working for in scenes inside a car or at a room. The scenes involving Veronica are playful but also have some commentary about the fallacies of alliance such as a scene late in the third act where Bruno has this monologue about why he refuses to take part in either side as it relates to Veronica’s own supposed affiliation with FLN. The usage of hand-held cameras for these intimate moments including scenes where Bruno is being tortured by the FLN showcase the brutality of this conflict that is happening in Switzerland between two factions. Especially in how one side would react to another leading to this chaotic element that Bruno wants out of and with Veronica with him so they can live a life without conflict. Overall, Godard crafts a gripping and compelling film about a spy caught in the middle of a conflict where he’s asked to assassinate the opposition.

Cinematographer Raoul Coutard does brilliant work with the film’s black-and-white cinematography with the way many of the exterior scenes at night look as well as the usage of low-key lights for the torture scenes. Editors Agnes Guillemot, Lila Herman, and Nadine Trintignant do excellent work with the editing with its stylish usage of jump-cuts to play into the action as well as creating cuts that help impact the suspense. The sound work of Jacques Maumont is superb for its natural approach to sound in the way gunfire or the atmosphere of a certain location is presented. The film’s music by Maurice Leroux is terrific as it is low key in its piano concerto presentation with some pieces by classical artists that is played on location.

The film’s wonderful ensemble cast include a few notable small roles from Godard as a man at the railway station, Laszlo Szabo as a friend of Bruno, Paul Beauvais as an intelligent officer working for the French, and Henri-Jacques Huet as the lead intelligence officer who orders Bruno to perform an assassination on this supposed double-agent. Michel Subor is fantastic as Bruno Forestier as a young spy that is tasked with an assassination assignment as he copes with what he has to do as well as the stakes prompting him to realize what it is all about as it’s an understated yet captivating performance. Finally, there’s Anna Karina in an amazing performance as Veronica Dreyer as it’s a lively and charming performance from Karina as a young woman whose loyalties and associations come into question as she also deals with the role she’s playing in this conflict as it is a joyful performance in her first of several collaborations with Godard.

Le Petit Soldat is an incredible film from Jean-Luc Godard that features brilliant performances from Michel Subor and Anna Karina. Along with its dazzling visuals and study of individuals caught up in a chaotic conflict, it’s a film that showcases some of the fallacies of war as well as two different people who want to live a life outside of conflict. In the end, Le Petit Soldat is a remarkable film from Jean-Luc Godard.

Jean-Luc Godard Films: All the Boys are Called Patrick - Charlotte et son Jules - A Bout de Souffle - A Woman is a Woman - Vivre Sa Vie - Les Carabiniers - Contempt - Bande a Part - A Married Woman - Alphaville - Pierrot Le Fou - Masculin Feminin - Made in U.S.A. - Two or Three Things I Know About Her - La Chinoise - WeekendSympathy for the Devil (One Plus One) - (Joy of Learning) - (British Sounds) - Tout va Bien - (Letter to Jane) - (One A.M.) - (Number Two) - (Here and Elsewhere) - (Every Man for Himself) - (Passion) - (First Name: Carmen) - Hail, Mary - (Soft and Hard) - (Detective) - (King Lear (1987 film)) - (Keep Your Right Up) - (Nouvelle Vague) - (Allemagne 90 neuf zero) - (JLG/JLG - Self-Portrait in December) - For Ever Mozart - (Historie(s) de Cinema) - (In Praise of Love) - (Notre musique) - (Film Socialisme) - (Adieu au Language) – (The Image Book)

© thevoid99 2018


Ruth said...

I so admire your film knowledge Steven! I'm so not well-versed in French New Wave, only seen one by Godard!!

thevoid99 said...

@Ruth-there's so many films of Godard to check out as I have about a few more films from New Wave period of 1960-1967 to see and finish up as that's a goal I'm hoping to complete really soon. I'm so glad to have a channel like Turner Classic Movies around because they will show a Godard film every once in a while it's always worth seeking out.