Les Carabiniers [DVD]  [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
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Product Description Pascale Audret, Albert Juross. Ferociously controversial film about two peasants who are promised a reward when they're recruited to fight a distant war and are betrayed by their king when they return home. Directed by Jean-Luc Godard. 1963/b&w/80 min/NR/fullscreen. From the Back Cover Godard's powerful anti-war and anti-imperialist film, Les Carabiniers, centers on two peasants who join the King's army. Seduced by the promise of riches, the two leave their wives and embark into the war sending postcards home that detail their conquests. Upon their return, they learn that a peace treaty has been signed and in turn, are betrayed by the king for their overzealousness.
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The film follows a very simple outline; idiotic peasants go off to fight in a war they know nothing about because the King's cronies promise them Carte Blanche to burn towns and break the arms of children. They are supported by their girlfriends because they see this as an opportunity to improve upon their physical beauty (in their minds their studs would pillage towns and obtain beautiful clothes for them). So off they go, following their reptilian brains and holding tight to their letters from the king which they believe to be their free pass to do whatever they please. And let us not pretend, please, that our current society is any better. These two fools in this film were won over by a generic letter from the king; here in the US many of our troops were won over by grandiose speeches by Bush calling them into action to fight evil doers and terrorists. And in both cases that power ran amok. Godard shows his men slaughtering innocents and attempting to buy a Maserati with the letter, in the real world we were left with the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. Both are cases of a society promising an individual more power than they can actually grant and then shaking their collective head when the miscommunication actually has consequences. Kill the bad people just don't humiliate them and take pictures of it. Well why not?
The film ultimately didn't work for me for a number of reasons, though it is not one of Godard's bigger disasters. I found it heavy handed that he would have us believe that Michelangelo was so stupid that he would fall through a movie screen trying to fondle the starlet. Also, the endless listing of photographs at the end went on way too long. Sure the point is that the world is filled to capacity with amazing objects, manmade and otherwise, but it really got to a point where he was beating a dead horse. At one point Ulysses and Michelangelo come across a female soldier who is trying to kill them. She starts quoting Lenin and is quickly thereafter shot. . .more for boring her audience than for dropping profound truths on them. Sadly I feel a connection to that scene because as I felt intellectually enriched by watching this film I was also bored and thus have to resist the urge to recommend it. **3/4
Shot in 16mm to accentuate the war correspondent feel of the picture, Godard employs he unique, trademark sound editing to most effective results and creates a world that takes to task the materialist cultures of the west of which fight wars in order to ensure continued monied-existences for the citizenry.
The DVD transfer is remarkably clean, considering the elements and the style that Godard wanted. It probably looks better that even Godard intended. A worthy purchase those looking for a strident, yet fresh examination of that uniquely human enterprise - war.
Godard's film is about as politcal as "Fahrenheit 9\11" and for some reason I enjoyed it. I always thought of Godard as a radical who's tastes seemed to slant towards the left. Sometimes that bothered me. Usually I describe Godard as pretentious. I don't find him to be as simulating as other directors. I find his ideas juvenile. And I've always thought he had trouble resolving his stories. They usually end in death and I feel that is a cop out because now Godard has let himself of the hook and doesn't need to come to a conclusion on how to end these characters. If you don't believe me watch "Breathless", "My Life To Live", "Contempt", "A Woman Is A Woman" or "Weekend".
But "Les Carabiniers" is a different matter. It is amazing how well the story works in modern times. Everything that Godard argue could still be argued today.
The movie tells the story of two men; Michel-Ange (Albert Juross) and Ulysses (Marino Mase) who are told if they join the army they will be giving rich rewards, they will see the world and meet beautiful women. After getting their hopes up so high the two decide to leave their girlfriends, Cleopatre (Catherine Ribeiro) and Venus (Genevieve Galea) and head off to war on behalf of the King of an unknown country.
So the two men go off and kill innocent people, because they were told they could do so, as long as it was done in the name of their country, all but rape women, again, they were told they could do so as long as it was done in the name of their country, and steal. You'd have to be blind not to know what Godard is saying. People committ terrible crimes in times of war and if these actions were done at any other time they would be considered criminals, but because these actions are done for one's country they are forgiven.
I imagine a lot of people, including those on amazon, may not like this movie because of what Godard is saying. But, if you are a Godard fan you should know what to expect and should be aware of his views. Those who aren't familiar I wouldn't be surprised if you became offended by the movie. Particularly those with opposite political views. But have things really gotten so bad that movies or people are no longer allowed to express different opinions?
"Les Carabiniers" may push some people's buttons the way his other film such as "Tout va bien" did, but to my surprise I'm going to defend Godard and his films. If you enjoyed the directors other works I think you'll find this film just as pleasing.
Something that surprised me even more than the film was the fact that Robert Rossellini apparently worked on the screenplay. Rossellini, for those who don't know, directed such films as "Germany Year Zero" and "Paisan".
Bottom-line: To me one of Godard's best films. May be a bit too political for some but still an effective worthwhile effort.
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