From: Steve Novak (
Date: 11 Aug 2009

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    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" <> 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
    > David Thompson
    > Busted Flush Press, LLC
    > P.O. Box 540594, Houston, TX  77254-0594 / (713) 942-9282
    > /'s blog)
    > Twitter:
    > Booksellers/librarians:  BFP books are distributed by
    > Consortium(800-283-3572).

    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 website.)

    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 PŠ (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 activity.

    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 through.

    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.

    [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

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