Written by: Michael Den Boer on October 29th, 2017
Theatrical Release Date: France, 1967
Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Writer: Jean-Luc Godard
Cast: Anne Wiazemsky, Jean-Pierre Léaud, Juliet Berto, Michel Semeniako, Lex De Bruijn, Omar Diop, Francis Jeanson, Blandine Jeanson, Eliane Giovagnoli
BluRay released: October 17th, 2017
Approximate running times: 97 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1 Aspect Ratio / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Sound: DTS-HD Mono French
BluRay Release: Kino Lorber
Region Coding: Region A
Retail Price: $29.95
“Paris, 1967. Disillusioned by their suburban lifestyles, a group of middle-class students, led by Guillaume and Veronique, form a small Maoist cell and plan to change the world by any means necessary. After studying the growth of communism in China, the students decide they must use terrorism and violence to ignite their own revolution.” – Synopsis provided by the Distributor
1967 was a transitional year for Jean-Luc Godard, after he completed the film Weekend. He would spend the next twelve years making cinema that was heavily influenced by political climate during this time frame. Another aspect of the films that he was making during this period, was how they defied the norms of traditional cinema. Before he would embark of this non-conformist approach to making cinema. He direct, a film in 1967 called La chinoise, that would foreshadow where he was about to go as a filmmaker.
Structurally La chinoise features a linear narrative that concludes with a finale that perfectly wraps up that events that have unfolded. Content wise, this film’s narrative is best described as a series of conversations about Maoism. And unlike many other film’s that delve into political subject matter. This film’s greatest strength is how is never is heavy handed in the way it presents its subject matter.
The most surprising aspect of this film are the performances, especially Jean-Pierre Léaud (The 400 Blows, Masculin Féminin) in the role of Guillaume, the ringer leader of a group of friends who isolate themselves in an apartment and discuss Maoism. Other notable performances include, Juliet Berto (Slogan, Duelle) in the role of Yvonne and Anne Wiazemsky (Teorema, Porcile) in the role of Veronique, the rebellious daughter of bourgeoisie parents.
And not to be overlooked when discussing this film is its fusion of sight and sound. There is an overflow of information beyond what the characters are saying and their actions. Words also appear as inter-titles and the characters are often seen writing various slogans on the walls of the apartment. Then use of sound is another area where this film excels. And nowhere is this more evident, then in regards to how this film juxtapositions sound with images.
Visually this film every frame is beautifully composed for maximum effect. And another strength of the visuals is the way in which this film uses colors. Visually there are many eye-catching set pieces. Most notably the scene where Yvonne who is dressed like Viet Cong is entrenched behind a stack of chairman Mao’s Little Red Book. And as this moment proceeds she makes a weapon out of her radio.
La chinoise comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. This release has been flagged for progressive playback and the film is presented in its intended 1.37:1 aspect ratio. Prior to this new transfer from Kino Lorber, my only previous exposure to this film is via their 2008 DVD release and that release left a lot of room for improvement. Fortunately, this new HD transfer from Kino Lorber is a superior upgrade from that release in every way. Details look crisp, there are no issues with DNR or compression and colors look vibrant, especially reds.
This release comes with one audio option, a DTS-HD mono mix in French and included with this release are removable English subtitles. There are no issues with background noise or distortion, dialog comes through clearly and everything sounds balanced. And this audio mix does a superb job with the more ambient aspects of the soundtrack.
Extras for this release include, a trailer for the film (2 minutes 20 seconds, in French with English subtitles), an interview with actor Michel Semeniako (38 minutes 28 seconds, in French with English subtitles), an interview with assistant director Charles Bitsch (19 minutes 49 seconds, in French with English subtitles), an interview with 2nd assistant director Jean-Claude Sussfeld (17 minutes 39 seconds, in French with English subtitles), an interview with writer Denitza Bentcheve (18 minutes 54 seconds, in French with English subtitles), an interview with film historian Antoine de Baqccque (18 minutes 54 seconds, in French with English subtitles) and an audio commentary with film historian James Quandt.
Topics discussed in the interview with Michel Semeniako include, how he met Jean-Luc Godard, the origins of La chinoise, background information about the film and the cast, Maoism and the role it played in La chinoise, cinematographer Raoul Coutard / the visuals, the creative process / other production related topics and his thoughts about the film.
Topics discussed in the interview with Charles Bitsch include, Jean-Luc Godard, politics and background information about their various collaborations.
Topics discussed in the interview with Jean-Claude Sussfeld include, La chinoise and how he got involved the making of this film, Jean-Luc Godard / his creative process, Raoul Coutard / the visuals, onset memories, the cast and his thoughts about the only scene in the film that he appears in.
Topics discussed in the interview with Antoine de Baqccque include, the origins of La chinoise, communism / the Viet Nam war / Maoism and his thoughts about the themes explored in La chinoise.
Topics discussed in the audio commentary include, background information about the film, Jean-Luc Godard and the cast, the Marist pollical climate in France when this film was made and his thoughts about the film.
Other extras include trailers for Film Socialism and Goodbye to Language.
Rounding out the extras is a sixteen-page booklet with an essay titled A Superior Notebook written by Richard Hell, an essay titled Revolutionary Thinking written by Amy Taubin and cast & crew information. Overall La chinoise gets an exceptional release from Kino Lorber, highly recommended.
Note: Kino Lorber are also releasing this film on DVD.