Some of Godards films are consistently entertaining (Breathless, My Life to Live, Band of Outsiders, Alphaville, Weekend, Pierrot Le Fou) while others are less so.
La Chinoise (1967) is smart as all of Godard's works are, but only mildly entertaining. Its content, style of critique, & entertainment value put it on par with Godard's other (and later) meditation on the intersection of pop culture & revolutionary politics, Sympathy for the Devil (1968). Both films deal with revolutionary politics & pop culture & how even radical cells reproduce the dominant culture's patriarchal paradigms.
La Chinoise is the story of a group of middle-class revolutionaries. The leader of this revolutionary troupe is played by a gentrified Jean-Pierre Leaud who, despite his many bourgeois trappings, nonetheless spends every waking hour reading from one revolutionary text or another. While it might be impossible to say exactly how much of this revolutionary talk had gotten to Godard, it is clear (at least at this point in his career) that he can still see both the comic and tragic irony of trying to be both revolutionary & bourgeoisie at the same time. Leaud is not as interesting nor as exciting to watch as Belmondo, but Godard has a lot of fun with this character who is so saturated with revolutionary theory that he is thrilled when one of his comrades gets beaten up by a rival faction because this is proof to him that all of his theorizing and political posturing has some connection to and effect upon reality. Eventually, to underscore Leauds bourgeois narcissism, Godard has him go on a tirade against mere actors while dressed as Napoleon.
Many of the more entertaining sequences involve the "revolutionaries" painting artfully crafted slogans on their dining room walls; Godard dwells on this to emphasize that the aesthetics of revolution are really what turns them on. And, if that is not enough, to emphasize the utter aestheticization and utter unreality of revolution to the insulated bourgeoisie, Godard also has them play with a toy camera that transforms into a toy machine gun. Godard seems to be saying that the revolutionaries do not make any real distinction between playing at being revolutionaries and actually being revolutionaries. For most of them just playing is enough. However, when one of the revolutionaries actually toys with a real gun and begins assassinating political opponents, its then that each of the players has to ask themselves just how seriously they take all of the revolutionary theory they spend their days & nights consuming.
But, before any decision can be made, everything is decided for them as their revolutionary hideout must be abandoned for it was really only on loan to them for the summer. When the bourgeoisie inhabitants of the house return one of them is disgusted at the revolutionary decor and literature that the summer tenants have left behind, but one of them shows at least a passing interest in it (perhaps this is the only clue in the film that something will come of all of the revolutionary's efforts). Its all kind of funny but also all kind of sad that so much youthful idealism has no real outlet in late capitalist society.
The end feeling is that Godard is as ambivalent about these kids (both the revolutionary and the bourgeoisie kids) as we are.
Since Godard himself was not affiliated with any academy or institution or party he was in a unique position to call revolutionary politics as practiced by a certain social group as he saw them. And it is refreshing to see Godard treat marxist & maoist politics with the same iconoclastic style that he brings to everything else that he critiques.
But in 1969 Godard would embrace maoist politics and this affiliation would mark the end of Godard's most interesting phase as an artist.
Politics & aesthetics do not get along very well. Politics reduce humans to collectives and art to propaganda; whereas aesthetics, at their most vital, assert the sovereignty of the individual. Hence the unsatisfying nature of much of Godards late sixties (beginning with La Gai Savoir, 1969) and seventies output (much of which was collaborative work).
Once the artist's sovereign vision is gone so too is the appeal of his art.