Roman Polanksi once said that “people like Godard are like little kids playing at being revolutionaries”, noting that he had actually grown up surrounded by the realities of communism. As a general rule I would always try to avoid a filmmaker’s personal tastes, opinions and politics but, as La Chinoise is essentially a political statement, it’s impossible not to let the Godard’s politics affect my opinion of it. Sadly, Polanski’s comment sums this film up perfectly.
There is no plot. What we are subjected to amounts to little more than a series of vignettes of utterly bourgeois adolescents rambling their tin-pot political philosophies from the comfort of their upper middle class apartments. Was this supposed to be ironic? Or are we supposed to buy into the ideas of these vacuous kids? It fails on both levels. All I wanted to do was give all of them a good slap across the chops and tell them to grow up.
Am I missing the point? Do I just not get it? Perhaps, and I’m fine with that. I truly love some of Godard’s films; Vivra Sa Vie, Pierrot Le Fou, Le Mepris. The difference is that all of these films had something or someone for me to care about. The one thing that might have saved La Chinoise for me would have been for all the characters to catch bubonic plague and die horribly. That’s would have cheered me up.
Stylistically the film has Godard written all over it but, by the time this film came out (in 1967), these flairs were already wearing a little thin, especially when they’re essentially there to veil an utterly feckless piece of propaganda. The only point of vague interest here is the slightly eerie way in which this film precipitated the riots of May 1968. This alone, however, is not worth the 85 minutes of your life you will wish you could have back if you decide to sit through this twaddle.