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Jean-Luc Godard Box Set - Alphaville/Le Petit Soldat/Une Femme Est Une Femme [DVD]

2.7 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Actors: Eddie Constantine, Anna Karina, Howard Vernon, Michel Delahaye, Jean-Andre Fieschi
  • Directors: Jean-Luc Godard
  • Producers: Georges de Beauregard, Andre Michelin
  • Format: Box set, PAL
  • Language: French
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 3
  • Classification: 15
  • Studio: Warner
  • DVD Release Date: 6 Sept. 2004
  • Run Time: 263 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0002HSDD2
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 110,647 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Product Description

Triple bill of films by the influential French New Wave director Jean Luc Godard. 'Alphaville' (1965) is set in Godard's dystopian vision of a future world in which technological progress has been at the expense of human individuality and love. Private eye Lemmy Caution (Eddie Constantine) is catapulted into space and ends up in Alphaville, a city run by domineering scientist Dr von Braun (Howard Vernon). After Caution sees his chief contact being killed, he becomes determined to strike at Alphaville's cold heart: a powerful computer system that stamps out all traces of individuality and emotion in the populace it controls. Godard used contemporary Parisian locations for this offbeat futuristic thriller. In 'Une Femme Est Une Femme' (1961), Godard's playful tribute to the genre of musical comedy and first foray into colour film, beautiful nightclub stripper Angela (played by Godard's then wife Anna Karina) wants to settle down and have a baby. When her lover, Emile (Jean-Claude Brialy), refuses to oblige, Angela threatens to get pregnant by the first man that comes along, and Emile suggests his friend Alfred (Jean-Paul Belmondo), who is in love with Angela. 'Le Petit Soldat' (1960) is a controversial spy-romance, which was banned from French release for three years after being made on account of its unflinching portrayal of the Franco-Algerian conflict during Algeria's struggle for independence. The film follows Bruno (Michel Subor), a disillusioned young deserter who becomes involved in the French nationalist movement despite his lack of deep political beliefs. Under orders, he kills an Algerian sympathiser and is then captured and tortured. When he meets and falls in love with a beautiful young woman, Veronika Dreyer (Karina appearing in her first film role), he does not realise that she is fighting for the other side.

Customer Reviews

2.7 out of 5 stars
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By Trevor Willsmer HALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWER on 4 May 2006
With each passing year, Godard seems even less important, even as a historical footnote. Always the least interesting and most self-aggrandizing of the nouvelle vague directors, seen four decades on a trio of his more acclaimed early films show just how little he had to say - no matter how loudly he says it - once you strip away the now-tired presentation. While Bertolt Brecht's highly stylised plays have survived the theatrical and the political movements that inspired them because at heart there's something there that matters, crucially, nothing about any of this tiresome trio of Godards seems deeply or passionately felt: it's all just attention seeking from someone who's tolerable company in small doses but a shallow coffeehouse bore the more time you spend with him.

Alphaville is one of the more watchable of Godard's infantile attention-seeking exercises, but that's largely due to Raoul Coutard's excellent cinematography of some overfamiliar Paris locations and Eddie Constantine's curiously charismatic one-note (aside from his moments of bewilderment) performance. As for content, it's as insubstantial as his usual efforts, mistaking sloganeering and casual misogyny for substance and social commentary. Old hat even in 1965, this is really little more than They Saved Hitler's Brain for people who'd never dream of going to see the real thing, though the mixture of public executions with synchronized swimming is rather neat.
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Godard belongs to that first generation of filmmakers who could reference the history of cinema - he grew up in a culture which shaped by cinematic reference and embraced the wonder of cinema; his films are as much about filmmaking as about character or narrative, and are told in a distinctive language of cinema.
Godard made "A Bout de Souffle" ("Breathless") in four weeks, in 1959. He developed a style of remaining distanced, of observing his characters, often leaving them to improvise while he tried to capture the immediacy of their action and reaction. In "Breathless" Jean-Paul Belmondo establishes a new noir, a rugged French antihero.
It's success led to the shooting of "Le Petit Soldat" ("The Little Soldier") in 1960, but banned in France for three years because it emphasised the brutality of both sides. Made at the height of the Algerian crisis, its hero, Bruno, is a draft-dodger, hiding in Switzerland from conscription into the army. Bruno, however, gets caught up in the undercover anti-terrorist campaign and is ordered to kill a Swiss journalist who has shown too much sympathy for the wrong side.
This is a gritty tale of espionage, a thriller stripped to its black and white bones. Godard, the enigmatic story teller, makes references outside the film, reminding the audience that they are watching a movie.
Bruno is self-centred, self-absorbed - his actions or inactions place his girlfriend, Anna Karina, at risk. He becomes a Hamlet like character - temporising, postponing. There's irony in the title: he's a runaway soldier who won't obey orders, who stops to think before he acts, who is capable of disobedience.
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This is not really a review of the quality of the films. All of them are wonderful, though I would say that Alphaville is my favourite, Le Petit Soldat is an interesting period piece, and Une Femme Est Une Femme is highly experimental and failed to engage me. However, Godard is a director of many parts, and I find his works to be varied enough to contain beautiful gems that I rate among the most beautiful works of art I have seen (Vivre sa Vie, Le Mepris, 2 ou 3 Choses que Je Sais d'elle) and yet others leave me cold (Pierrot le Fou, Weekend). And yet I know others will love the films I dislike, and will do so with good reason.

This is really a review of the state of this box set. It has burnt-in-subs, which is unforgiveable for an art film, particularly in a language as accessible and widely known as French. I would recommend lovers of Godard to look elsewhere. However if you are looking for an introduction to some of Godard's engaging films, and you find this dirt cheap in a bargain bin, or as a rental, it would be worth picking up as an introduction.

Post script: Bear in mind that though "Le Petit Soldat" contains politics that have long faded in history (the Algerian war of independence) its references to waterboarding and the ethics of choosing to be an activist that are still relevant, as well as containing a beautifully acted piece where Michel Subor is photographs Anna Karina as he converses with her, that is one of the great scenes of cinema, in my opinion.
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First of all, unlike some today, I still think of Godard as a great film-maker. However, for such a great artist, he made a fair number of pretty average films, and some plain awful ones too; picking your way through the rubble in search of greatness is not always the most pleasurable of tasks. If you're new to Godard, I would suggest leaving these three movies until you've watched some of his really outstanding work, such as A Bout de Souffle, Vivre sa Vie, Le Mepris, Bande a Parte, Pierrot le Fou, and (perhaps) Slow Motion. If you like those, then you might think about moving on to some of the second-string material like this.

Le Petit Soldat is a reasonably insightful study of the war between France and Algeria in the late fifties / early sixties. Credit Godard with the courage to suggest that there were wrongs on both sides; credit him also with the ability to make a reasonably suspenseful thriller, an ability he all but abandoned as the sixties wore on. I suppose this film is, as another Amazon reviewer observed, a little stuck in its own time, dealing with events long past. It still bears up to a close viewing, but I think for most people it will be memorable mainly for the strong acting performances from the two leads (Anna Karina and Michel Subor); and also for that very famous -- and rather ludicrous -- soundbite of Godard's, "Photography is truth; cinema is truth 24 frames a second."

Une Femme est Une Femme is (I assume) Godard's attempt at deconstructing the musical comedy form. It's OK if your idea of comedy is a Frenchman in a suit riding around his living room on a bicycle, or attempting to conduct a conversation with a toothbrush in his mouth; it's OK if your idea of deconstructive analysis is a nugget like, "Emile takes Angela at her word because he loves her...
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