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March 17, 2004

{     Jean-Luc Godard's Les Carabiniers     }    

les_carabiniers.bmp About halfway through Godard's anti-war diatribe "Les Carabiniers", you realize you've been had. One of the most influtential directors of all time, in the midst of a creative plateau, has made an absolutely terrible film. The story is dreadful. The characters are despicable as are the performances of the unknowns portraying them. The shots, constructed by the all-seeing eye of French New Wave, Raoul Coutard are flat and ugly. The pacing stutters and the directors use of overzealous KABOOM! sound effects is downright ridiculous. Strangely enough, it is precisely these factors making the movie so bad which also demonstrate its genius. What Godard is saying in this piece is that not only is he against war itself but he is also against war as a genre of entertainment in film. Simply put, Les Carabiniers is both an "anti-war" movie and an "anti-war movie" movie. Yup, this is on some ol' Brainy Smurf-type shit. Godard made a name for himself early in the 1960s French New Wave by turning Hollywood film conventions and cliches on their heads. Plotline manipulation was not enough for Godard, as he took to playing with the very definitions of what a film is and what is to view a film. Godard's early works offer the director's take on classic Hollywood genres and the formulas contained within. Les Carabiniers is his "war" film... though the characters are all impossibly stylish, impeccably dressed, and smoke all the time. I must now warn you that Les Carbiniers is carefully designed to be void of any pleasure for the audience. Having made some of the most amazing films in cinema history, Les Carabiniers is proof that Godard is really good at making bad movies, too. Godard felt that too often anti-war motifs were lost in captivating violence, stunning imagery, and slick editing. So in return, Godard will have none of this as his normal jump-cut, quick-paced tempo slows to a standstill, allowing the audience to really think about and meditate on what war actually is. Les Carabiniers is the story of two gung-ho lower class testosteronies, tricked into joining the army in order to, basically, travel the world raping, killing, and stealing their way to a better, brighter tomorrow. And they do just that, as we follow these two assholes on their tours of duty throughout a fictitious World War 3 setting. Godard leaves you with no real reason you should like this movie, not even for aesthetic reasons. The award-winning Raoul Coutard purposefully dumbed-down his shooting techniques in order to match authentic war newsreel footage mixed in to the piece, Ed Wood-style. There are no likable characters in this film. No poignant music, no slow-motion close-ups of earnest bravery, no gut-wrenching themes of patriotism and sacrifice, and no explosive-tip arrows or nude Marlon Brandos. Only numerous acts of unfeeling cruelty, schizophrenic pacing, dickhead characters (and I say dickhead with utmost journalistic integrity), alongside over-the-top cartoon instrumentals and goofy war sound-effects expertly placed to add emphasis to Godard's indictment of man's absurdity. This is what my older brother would call a "snobby art film"…then he’d try to punch you in the balls. I have to say, Godard did succeed in making this movie intolerable to watch. The movie itself (with the exception of the cinema scene) really is awful. Yet it is also an amazing accomplished work that stays with you long after the last frame. You have to give it up to a guy who, with all the momentum in the world behind his career, actually goes out to make a terrible movie on purpose. And not done in a Pee Wee Herman "I meant to do that" kinda way, either. I can't stop thinking about this piece. I recommend that you watch this not as a means of entertainment, but as professors say, a "think piece". Keep in mind everything that is happening on the screen and contrast how it fits in the larger overall scopes of the both the medium of film and life itself. Just keep in mind... this aint Rambo, muthafucka.

     » The Jean-Luc Godard Resource Page


Hear hear! I haven't sat through this yet, but I couldn't agree more with the sentiment that war does not make good film. It's way too easy to load a film with that heaviness, let the story depend on something overarching that excuses or justifies unrealistic or irresponsible behavior. It kills me that these films are often so lauded and revered when really they are just a showcase for violence as drama.
My favorite war film- Paul Veerhoeven's Starship Troopers. Nobody believes me when I tell them this movie isn't just sci-fi scrapple (nobody will listen to a defense of Verhoeven's work either) it actually points out, by utilizing hyperbolic war film stereotypes, all the ludicrousness of war and war film as a genre.

Damn E, you made me get all ranty and stuff!

Posted by: Adam at March 17, 2004 8:14 PM

Good point, Adam. Not enough people give my man Paul Verhoeven enough credit. He DOES deal with pretty deep themes in some of his work, he just always seems to go about it in a slightly goofy way... like invading a planet of giant bugs or designing the ultimate robotic law enforcer in the mold of Peter Weller. Of course, all our arguments go straight out the window once someone brings up Showgirls...
But I found out Paul also directed a few episodes of HBO's "the Hitchhiker", a show in the mid-80s which satisfied a young Eric Swisher's cravings for female nudity on a consistent basis. So I consider myself indebted to the man. Down by law.

Posted by: Eric at March 17, 2004 8:49 PM

Did Verhoeven direct Pitch Black too? Because that's another movie like that I kinda liked that nobody else did. Except it wasn't all artsy. And it didn't have an underlying point. Or idea. Or anything beyond cool effects. Okay, it sucked, but for some reason I like it. Back to my point though, I love Starship Troopers. A lot. It thought it was a very smart movie that just happened to be really campy and funny, and great.

Oh, and you know something else I love since Showgirls was brought up? The other stripper flick with Demi? "Stripper" or whatever, I can't be bothered to remember... But it had Ving Rhames with a monkey on his shoulder the whole time. That was funny as fuck. I didn't see the whole movie, I just saw him in the stripper dressing room in the beginning with a monkey on his shoulder and I turned it off, knwoing it would get no better than that.

Posted by: Shane at March 17, 2004 9:23 PM ---- where insightful reviews of the work of Jean-Luc Godard degenerate into discussions of boobs, bugs and monkeys.

IMDB gives David Twohy credit for Pitch Black, but I give you credit for pointing out the similarities in that film and Starship Troopers. Both are very slick, very fx filled and very violent, not to mention the whole bugs on another planet thing. But only one of those films features Neil Patrick Harris (of television's Doogie Houser, M.D.) as a psychic nerd-boy turned psychic military strategist nerd-boy. Starship Troopers also had the cojones to do some nude scenes (unfortunately none with Doogie Houser) showcasing the buttocks of uber-gay man-hunk Casper Van Dien and a bevy of delightful ta-tas from the supporting cast, in what may be the only uni-sexual military shower scene we'll ever see filmed. But I swear I only dig the film because of it's underlying subtext of "war-as-absurdity"!
Since the subject of Showgirls has been broached, (due to a court order, I'm not allowed to bring it up in conversation, only to respond if somebody else does) I'd like to weigh in on that- Veerhoeven is no stranger to crap, but I think even the shittiest of his films carry some merit. I always kind of viewed Showgirls as a retelling of the director's own experiences in encountering Hollywood. The Elizabeth Berkely character is really Veerhoeven himself- arriving in some fantastically glamorous and glitzy world from some far-off and culturally disenfranchised backwood (Nomi is from the rural South, Veerhoeven is Dutch), following their dreams and passions, discovering the harsh realities of Tinseltown/Vegas, realizing that violence is the only way to make it in the industry, and finally exploiting your natural talents to cater to the purile desires of the audience.
Maybe I'm just full of shit.
In case you missed it, Striptease also featured a delightfully toupeed Burt Reynolds, who turned out a rather creepy performance foreshadowing his role in Boogie Nights a few years later.

Posted by: Adam at March 17, 2004 10:41 PM

Sorry Eric and Adam, I didn't mean to dumb down the convo.

But still, I mean, Ving Rhames! A monkey!

Posted by: Shane at March 17, 2004 11:27 PM

You didn't dumb down shit! This blog has been all about retardation from the get-go, and we're all active participants in that. Besides, Eric's the one who brought up Showgirls and wanking it to espisodes of The Hitchhiker....

Posted by: adam at March 17, 2004 11:52 PM

I will admit that I went to see Showgirls in the theater. However, the only thing I remember from the experience was that halfway through the film, I heard the sound of what I thought was running water. I turned to look in the direction the noise was coming from, and the guy 2 rows behind me was sitting up in his seat, pants down, hunched over, pissing on the floor. Worse yet, he didn't even notice when we turned around and caught him. It seemed he was so engrossed in the action, he refused to leave the theater to urinate. My man must have got the extra large gallon soda cause there was a sizable river of piss flowing down the middle of the theater (and on my shoes) and all we could do was get up and move. Now I can't say I'm all that big of a Showgirls fan, but I've seen many movies and been to many movie theaters... I've never seen a movie have that much of a grip on their audience to where their choosing pissing in their seats.
I guess I've led us further down the spiral.

Posted by: Eric at March 18, 2004 12:37 AM

A little off-topic but just wanted to say I liked the layout of the site

Posted by: black but at July 18, 2005 4:48 AM
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