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With: Michel Subor, Anna Karina, Henri-Jacques Huet, Paul Beauvais, László Szabó, Georges de Beauregard
Written by: Jean-Luc Godard
Directed by: Jean-Luc Godard
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Language: French with English subtitles
Running Time: 88
Date: 01/25/1963

Le Petit soldat (1963)

3 Stars (out of 4)

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By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Jean-Luc Godard remains the most elusive and fiercely independent of the French New Wave directors. From the very beginning he strove to stay true only to himself, even if that meant making films that others found unwatchable. In 2020, the Criterion Collection has released on Blu-ray one of Godard's most obscure and difficult titles, the thorny, war-related Le Petit Soldat (previously available on DVD through Fox Lorber). The film follows Michel Subor as a young man dispatched to perform various assassinations during the Algerian war. It was banned for depicting scenes of the French army torturing our hero, scenes that must have struck a pretty raw nerve at the time. But it's also notable for casting Anna Karina, the actress who would become Godard's muse and wife, and would appear in many more of his films. When the camera draws close to her face, the screen radiates passion. The film is overall quite confused, but also truthful, as that's just how Godard must have been feeling at the time. The black-and-white, restored transfer on the Blu-ray was supervised by the original cinematographer, Raoul Coutard and is accompanied by an uncompressed monaural soundtrack. Extras include archival interviews with Godard and Subor, and a 30-minute audio interview with Godard from 1961. The liner notes include an essay by critic Nicholas Elliott.

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