[1] Godard’s image of Bruno pushing through a door as a symbolic way of leaving the past behind feels like a deliberate echo of the heavily fatalistic ending of The Lady from Shanghai (1948), where Orson Welles pushes through a turnstile while saying, “Maybe I’d forget her, maybe I’d die trying.” Like the Welles character, Bruno has experienced the death of love, but Godard adds a layer of complexity wherein this sense of personal disappointment and betrayal can be read politically as well — as an unraveling of the one-dimensional patriotic ideals that Bruno had tried to live by. [return to page one]

[2] Le Petit Soldat: Modern Film Scripts Series (Translated by Nicholas Garnham; Simon and Schuster: New York, 1967), p. 8

[3] It took the late Pontecorvo to do this successfully in his great masterpiece, The Battle of Algiers (1965), perhaps the single best “political film” of all time.

[4] Le Petit Soldat: Modern Film Scripts, ibid., p. 9

[5] Ibid., pp. 11-12

[6] Laszlo’s monologue prefigures numerous scenes in Godard’s later films, especially the scene in Weekend (1967) where the African and Arab sanitation workers stare aggressively into the camera while we hear them describing their revolutionary agendas in voiceover: “We have therefore chosen guerilla warfare as the only possible solution. It is an advantageous tactic for us and an easy one to apply — we work in the nation’s strategic points, in the factories, the fields and the white men’s homes. We can easily destroy and commit acts of sabotage.” (In fact, Godard again had the same Hungarian actor, Szabo, play the Arab in Weekend. I doubt that any major filmmaker would be able to get away with such “race-switching” in casting, today.)

[7] Frederick Crews, Follies of the Wise, Shoemaker Hoard, Emeryville, CA: 2006, p. 340) [return to page two]

[8] Richard Slotkin, Regeneration Through Violence: The Mythology of the American Frontier, 1600-1800 (Wesleyan University Press: Middletown, CT, 1973), p. 544

[9] The Collected Poems of Edouard Glissant, translated by Jeff Humphries with Melissa Manolas (University of Minnesota Press: Minneapolis, MN, 2005), p. 85

[10] Slotkin, ibid., p. 66

[11] Ibid., p. 60

[12] Jean Sénac, Avant-Corps (my translation; France: Gallimard, 1968), p. 58 [return to p. 3]

[13] It’s intriguing to me that Denis, as a female director, lets her camera linger so longingly over the naked bodies of the young soldiers. There’s a kind of reversal of the “sexism” displayed by the eye of a male director gathering female flesh into his shot. Catherine Breillat, another great French feminist director, makes this point explicit in her self-critical Sex is Comedy (2002), a movie about the difficulties a director has in filming a sex scene. At one point, the director (who is supposed to be Breillat) says words to the effect that she always chooses her leading actors for their looks and she always ends up disappointed in them. It is Gregoire Colin (Gilles from Beau Travail) who plays the vain, vapid actor she is talking about.

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