This a perfect case of misdirection...or whatever we call it...and I command
your bookstore for recommending it because it is an important film in the
Godard evolution, etc...but I certainly do not command your bookstore for
not giving you ahead of time, either something to read about the film or a
website to go to...some background of some sort...Because if you and dearly
beloved one, came unprepared and unknowing anything about Godard and his
type of movie making and his influence on film history/evo...etc of cinema,
I am not surprised that you were horrified...It¹s just like being introduced
to new writers by some particular comments on Rara for example...It doesn¹t
mean you are going to like it by any means, but you come there with a
certain knowledge of what you are going to see...and in this case, of
course, there was, as you point out accurately, no ressemblance...but Godard
was never about that, and unless you know that from the start...No excuse
for the bookstore then, they had to tell you something...they had to pass on
and disseminate information...
I much prefer WeekEnd, Breathless or Le Mépris or some more recent ones.
If you care to read it here¹s a bit of info found on the net (see below) at:
And to finish something that you can delight with, a quote from G: ³Cinema
is the most beautiful fraud in the world.²
On 8/11/09 9:11 AM, "Busted Flush Press" <email@example.com> wrote:
> John asked about the film MADE IN U.S.A., which is allegedly based on Richard
> Stark's THE JUGGER. The film recently ran in Houston, and I dragged my wife
> to see it because I'm a big fan of Stark's Parker books... I would not have
> been shocked if she'd divorced me on the spot. That may be the single worst
> film I've ever seen... made worse by the fact that it bears nearly NO
> RESEMBLANCE to the alleged source material. Worth a watch with friends...
> while you're drinking... and enjoy making fun of bad movies.
> The movie makes litle sense at all... one scene involves a bar patron
> jabbering incomprehensible remarks (which had nothing to do with the plot...
> wait, what plot??) for like five minutes while drinking an aperitif... every
> time someone tries to say the dead guy's name, some damn horn, phone, bell
> goes off or a freakin' airplane goes overhead (so many times it's like the
> movie was filmed on the Kennedy Airport tarmac), because I guess you're not
> SUPPOSED to know the guy's name and the noises drowned it out (it was like
> enacting a Victorian novel -- "She was fond of diddling Mr. T_________ of
> B______ Hall." -- only louder and annoying)... and just when you think it
> can't be more incomprehensible, two of the characters face the camera and
> start talking nonsense OVER EACH OTHER. I was ready to stab my eyes out with
> a straw.
> We would have walked out but our bookstore had actually encouraged customers
> to attend, and we might have been lynched had we attempted to escape. As it
> was, when it was over, we could not have moved faster out of the theater if
> we'd had jet packs.
> I've taken film classes on German New Wave cinema, and PLEASE let me watch a
> Fassbinder movie-marathon with a loaded gun before I have to sit through MADE
> IN U.S.A. again.
> I'd love to hear what other people think of the movie, in particular how in
> the hell it's supposed to be based on Stark's THE JUGGER.
> David Thompson
> Busted Flush Press, LLC
> P.O. Box 540594, Houston, TX 77254-0594 / (713) 942-9282
> www.bustedflushpress.com / bustedflushpress.blogspot.com(BFP's blog)
> Twitter: http://twitter.com/bustedflushpres
> Booksellers/librarians: BFP books are distributed by
MADE IN U.S.A. - #481
"I understood very quickly. This affair had to remain murky for everyone,
and my life was on the line."
Donald Westlake's Parker is the kind of guy who can never get a break. A bad
dude who cleans many a house in all corners of the underworld, he starred in
twenty-three novels, but you'd almost never know he had a movie career, too.
Maybe it's some strange karma that, since Westlake wrote this crook's
stories under the nom de plume Richard Stark, Parker's most famous cinema
adaptations have changed his name to something else. The John Boorman flick
Point Blank has Lee Marvin playing Walker, whereas Brian Helgeland's Payback
cast Mel Gibson as Porter. Never mind that they were both based on the same
novel, The Hunter, which was the start of the series. By all reports, poor
Parker is faring better now that he's branching out into comic books. Darwyn
Cooke's adaptation Parker: The Hunter is due to be released any day now, and
by all advance reports, it's brilliant. (Read a preview at the publisher's
In 1966, Jean-Luc Godard adapted a different novel, turning The Juggerinto
Made in U.S.A. and Parker into a woman in the process. Such are the things
you can get away with when you don't bother to get the author's permission
to turn his novel into a movie. Made in U.S.A. was reportedly barred from
lighting up screens on this side of the Atlantic thanks to successful
litigation by Westlake. I can't say I blame him, and from the looks of
things, Made in U.S.A. is so far away from its alleged source material, I am
not sure why Godard didn't just pretend he came up with it on his own.
In The Jugger, Parker travels to small-town Nebraska to silence an old
heistman who knows too much about his past, only to find someone else has
done the silencing for him. The question is, how much had the geriatric
crook talked before the end came? In Made in U.S.A., Parker's stand-in is
Paula Nelson, played by Anna Karina. She is visiting Atlantic-Cité to dig up
the dirt on why her ex-fiancé, Richard P (voiced by Godard on tape, but
never actually seen) was put in that selfsame dirt. Paula is some kind of
sexy secret agent, a smuggler perhaps, a sort of veteran of various wars.
Richard was a communist, and though everyone involved with the murder and
the cover-up act like gangsters, it's all political. It's the 1960s, and
when looking through Godard's dark sunglasses, politics are the new criminal
As with most Godard films, "plot" is of little importance in Made in U.S.A..
Paula has come to town, she's approached by a little man named Typhus
(Ernest Menzer) who claims to have worked with Richard, she beats him with a shoe, she meets his novelist nephew (Yves Afonso) and his Japanese girlfriend (Kyoko Kosaka), hangs out in a café, hears an a cappella performance of "As Tears Go By" by Marianne Faithfull, eventually gets around to asking some questions. It's all rather loose and off-the-cuff, the driving force of the story coming back around almost like an afterthought. There are plenty of messages even when there is no story--advertising is overtaking everything, war is immoral, the times they are a-changin'--but as usual, they are so entwined within the medium, sorting it all out can seem both daunting and silly. The standard modus operandi of any private detective movie is that the more the shamus explains, the more obscured the facts become; Made in U.S.A. subverts this by never bothering to explain, it's only obfuscation. There is a little bit of voiceover, but it has a meta hue. Sometimes, it's not voiceover at all, but Paula or Widmark (Laszlo Szabo) turning to the camera and describing their conversation rather than having it. Likewise, a tape recording of Richard takes over the role of
"narrator" once it surfaces, and in the final switch, Paula makes her own tape.
Made in U.S.A. begins with a dedication to Nicholas Ray and Samuel Fuller,
and it's the Hollywood tradition that they represent that is more important
to Godard than the Westlake novel (and also likely where the title comes
from). A Walt Disney film starring Humphrey Bogart is how Paula
self-reflexively describes it, suggesting it's Bogie's presence that makes
it a meaningful gangster picture. The gangsters played by Jean-Pierre Leaud
and Laszlo Szabo are named for the director Donald Siegel and the great film
noir villain, Richard Widmark. Jean-Claude Bouillon's police inspector takes
his surname from Robert Aldrich. Most of the streets mentioned are also
names of famous writers and directors--Ben Hecht, Otto Preminger, etc.*
Daisy Kenyon and Ruby Gentry are women paged at a spa. Leaud's tic of
shaking up a puzzle as he walks is like an overly complicated version of
George Raft flipping a coin in Hawks' Scarface (which Raft would parody
himself a year later in Casino Royale). In this film, perhaps more than any
other, Godard is placing himself in the American cinematic milieu, letting
it enfold him, and then kicking the crap out of it on his way out.
Given the political bend of the film, in addition to the American criminal
mythology, American politics are also going to come up. Though Godard is
none too thrilled with the conservative leanings of the French government,
the war in Vietnam and the new rule of Richard Nixon has already taken the
mark at the center of the world stage. The director's weariness over war is
transferred to two hoods who are tired of the fighting, tired of chasing
Paula. They are played by Sylvain Godet and Jean-Pierre Biesse, who are
christened Robert McNamara and Richard Nixon, respectively. Maintaining a
course of human misery requires a certain fortitude. Leaud's Siegel can't
take it, only Widmark and Paula have the intestinal mettle to see this thing
Anna Karina wouldn't make a very convincing tough guy, and she doesn't
really try for it. Her main weapons are her beautiful, smoky eyes, which are
always watching, and her killer mod wardrobe, which is regularly commented
on, its practical use being to distract. Though she seems indifferent at
times, that is really unflappable persistence. At one point, she is clocked
on the head and wakes up in Widmark's auto garage, and she's not really
affected. She gets up and begins asking her questions right where she left
off. Godard dresses her in bright colors, and he and his regular
cinematographer, Raoul Coutard, give the rest of Atlantic-Cité a matching
neon glare. Billboards and posters are everywhere, advertising something or
other, but they are also starting to crack, peel, and fade. They are
interchangeable props, often being changed and/or dumped as Paula watches.
American values based on commercialism don't take long to go out of date.
Perhaps this is what Paula has really come to kill off, the creeping
influence of American thinking. There must have been a bitter irony for
Godard that the country that gave him his beloved art was seeking to mold
the world to its capitalist ways through that same art. (I am sure the
global market has made that all the worse for him; I can't imagine him
enjoying a Starbucks and a Big Mac.) If we choose to see Paula as a stand-in
for Godard rather than one for Westlake's anti-hero, then once she has
avenged Richard, there is no choice but to retreat from this strange
American amalgam to something more European. Having political-minded
journalist and filmmaker Philippe Labro--who himself studied and traveled in
the United States before returning to France and serving in the military in
the Algerian war, a path that likely inspired much of Paula's
backstory--pick her up at the border in a car with the word Europe painted
on the side* is the kind of deliberate agitprop symbol that was becoming
increasingly attractive to Godard at the time. The film ends with them in
the car discussing how the two-way thinking of right and left has become
outmoded. Yet, typical of a movie that has gone out of its way to avoid
clear answers, so too are no solutions offered before cutting to black.
Paula asks, "How then?" and the only reply: FIN.
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