A few nights ago I watched Les Carabiniers, the first Jean-Luc Godard movie I'd ever seen. As far as I can tell, it's an overrated movie. According to Rober Ebert's review, the humour is appreciable only if you're caught up with the sort of exclusive comedic language of Godard's films. Ebert says, ". . . walking in at the beginning of a new Godard movie is like walking in at the middle of someone else's: You ask yourself what happened before you got there." A number of perspectives on the movie point out that Godard was forcing the audience to look at movies in a new way. And I can appreciate that. But I'm not sure the movie has much more than groundbreaking moviemaking techniques. Which, of course, aren't groundbreaking any more (the movie was made in 1963), so what's left?
The story is that, in a fictional country, ruled by a king, two farmers are duped by a couple of carabiniers into fighting the king's war for promises of looting, pillaging, and . . . lifting girl's skirts. And, no, that's not a euphemism for rape, apparently. These uncouth, amoral soldiers apparently get adequate jollies from peeping at a lady's panties. And all of these ladies don't seem particularly to care. I don't think that was intentional. I think we were meant to be shocked by the actions of these soldiers and take pity on the young women. Now, I've not witnessed such a situation myself, so maybe women do tend to take it as they would a slow line at Disneyland. But somehow I doubt it.
But, you know, maybe it was meant to be funny. Or something other than realistic, because most of the movie was unrealistic. On the other hand, TCM's Robert Osbourne, before the movie, explained that Godard was committed to making more realistic films than what people were used to from Hollywood. And, in terms of the almost totally absent musical score, realistic locations, and often static or erratically moved camera, I suppose it was that, for the time.
Osbourne also explained that Godard expressed an intention to enrage audiences with his technique. I wonder if, then, the annoyance I felt was meant to be felt--my annoyance at the fact that scenes supposedly of our characters trudging through battle-torn landscape just look like a couple of guys romping about in a field. My annoyance that not a single scene is believable, except for the extremely graphic stock footage of people terribly wounded or killed in war.
And that added up to another annoyance--that such brutal reality was juxtaposed with podgy, grinning actors playing army-men, most of the time for no apparent reason.
On the couple of occasions where reason was apparent, I did see how some of the humour could be pretty good, if the rest of the movie hadn't put me in a bad mood. The farmer-soldier trying to get at the bathing woman on the movie screen was pretty good. The execution of the rebel woman reciting poetry would have been good if her clothing looked like she'd been living desperately and the soldiers killing her had looked like they'd been fighting in a war for some time.
One thing I did like was that, throughout the film, letters were shown on title cards and read by the narrator. These letters were actual letters from soldiers all throughout different wars in different countries, from the time of Napoleon up to 1963.
But otherwise . . . it mostly just seems shoddy. I dunno, maybe I'm missing something.