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Reviews & Ratings for
The Carabineers More at IMDbPro »Les carabiniers (original title)

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22 out of 28 people found the following review useful:

An Ugly Film on an Ugly Subject

Author: Chris Bright from London
7 July 2004

While this is certainly not Godard's most enjoyable work some of the negative comments here are world-class examples of point-missing.

Godard had already shown with "A Bout de Soufflé" and "Vivre Sa Vie" that he knew how to make a film with style, romance and flair. Therefore it's clear that the crude editing and sound dubbing, continuity lapses, bad acting and overall cheapness on display here were deliberate.

What we seem to have here is "War for Dummies". Godard spells things out as if talking to backward children and absolutely refuses to invest his subject and his protagonists with any sort of spectacle or dignity, both by giving us moronic and unsympathetic characters and by refusing the audience any catharsis or vicarious pleasure.

Francois Truffaut once said that no war movie can be truly anti-war, since the camera automatically aestheticizes its subject. Godard here goes all-out to disprove that thesis.This does of course make the film hard to watch but it's a deliberate slap in the face, not the result of incompetence.

Incidents from many wars are parodied - for example scenes of the women having their hair cut off refer to the treatment of French women who had consorted with Germans during the Occupation. "America" is represented by a car with tail fins and some French tower blocks, in a prefiguring of "Alphaville"s approach to location. Apparently the letters used as intertitles are genuine letters home from French troops in various conflicts, although this does not seem to be made clear in the film.

I tend to agree that this is a film for Godard completists only and certainly not the best place to start with his work. The best comparison to make would be with Alfred Jarry's "Ubu Roi" which takes the same crude approach, and apparently the project started life as a stage play.

See "Weekend" for a similar approach to 'peace', only with a lot more fun and games.

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26 out of 36 people found the following review useful:

An irritating anti-war fable...

6/10
Author: Righty-Sock (robertfrangie@hotmail.com) from Mexico
17 September 2002

Similar to Ingmar Bergman's 'Shame' is Godard's powerful parable of war, 'The Riflemen.'

Godard has stated that 'In dealing with war, I followed a very simple rule. I assumed I had to explain to children not only what war is, but what all wars have been from the barbarian invasions to Korean and Algeria, by way of Fontenoy, Trafalgar, and Gettysburg.'

Michelange and Ulysse leave the women when the king's officers come enlist them... They are offered everything... 'Can we loot, burn, rape etc. etc… 'Yes. You can do anything you want,' they are assured... So with rifles on their backs they are off to war...

Like Bergman's film there is no enemy... Both sides wear the same uniform, talk the same language and have the same objectives... Nothing is left out of the film, the hate, the humiliation, the rape, but above all we are impressed by the unending and unrelieved scenery of destruction... There is nothing that is natural or alive in the world of rubble...

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13 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

don't expect breathless the sequel

Author: lolita27 from Pretentious City
13 April 2004

throughout his work in the early to mid-sixties, jean luc godard rode the nouvelle vague by employing and twisting the classic features of a specific film genre. examples of this are his sci-fi (alphaville), and his beloved gangster film (breathless).

when examining les carabiniers, his take on the war movie, one must see godard's purpose in two parts; one, as an anti-war movie, and two, as an anti-war-movie movie.

that is, in addition to the visual social commentary which displays the standard horrific shots of dismemberment and destruction, godard uses the structural components of his film as a whole to mock films along the lines of 'private ryan'.

this means that he refuses to use the concept of war as something that will prove to provide the viewer with any degree of vicarious pleasure, whether that pleasure be derived from identification with a noble lead (which is surely why he has ulysses and michelangelo be such jackasses), beautiful glimmering visuals, (hence the low-caliber film stock), or enjoyable montage and pacing (akin to the conclusive lengthy postcard recounting).

to end this brief rebuff to those who compare this film to tomb raider, i will quote critic david steritt, who states that in les carabiniers, godard refuses to turn aggression into commodification.

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21 out of 32 people found the following review useful:

amazing. 9/10

9/10
Author: zetes from Saint Paul, MN
28 April 2001

What can you say? It's Godard. If you appreciate Godard, his early stuff, particularly, Les Carabiniers fits in perfectly with films such as Breathless, My Life to Live, Une femme est une femme, Band of Outsiders, and Pierrot le fou. It is utterly complicated, and seems to be saying dozens of things at once, none of them becoming clear enough to formulate a satisfactory thesis.

The film starts off with two brothers and their wives living in a shack in the middle of nowhere. Two carabiniers (riflemen) arrive, basically assaulting the four of them. They come with a proposition, though: join the army, be one of them. You get to travel everywhere, and you can do anything you want. What a proposition! The two men join, leaving their wives (tellingly named Cleopatra and Venus) at the shack.

What follows is a fantastical account of war. The characters speak French, but they don't seem to be meant to be any specific nationality. Their supreme commander is "The King." They travel around the world, including Egypt and the USA, killing whoever gets in their way. They play sickening games with their victims. Why? Because they can. They have guns, their victims don't. Between the scenes where our heroes reak havoc, Godard inserts stock footage of real wars. Over the fictional footage, Godard inserts the sound of explosions and gunfire. This lack of realism creates a stunning surrealism.

At first, I was thinking the film was about the fact that your average soldier is an ignoramous with a deadly weapon. Transferred, this speaks illy of the government who willingly supplies its young morons with deadly weapons. One particularly hilarious scene (yes, it has elements of comedy, too) which shows these folks to be country bumpkins occurs when one, Michelangelo, attends a movie, his first ever. It begins with a train arriving at a station, a la L'Arrivée d'un train à la Ciotat, a Lumiere film made in 1895, often regarded as the first film ever made (though it wasn't, not even by the Lumieres). Michelangelo covers his face as it moves forwards on screen, as everyone has heard the first movie patrons ever did (which isn't true, either). The film he watches moves on to a scene where a woman undresses and takes a bath. Michelangelo is so impressed, he jumps up and tries to jump into the action, a la Buster Keaton's Sherlock Jr. The results are hilarious. I don't think this theme holds up through the whole film, but, c'est le Godard!

Further on, it seems to take more of a Marxist viewpoint (I believe Godard was a Marxist at this point in his career). Two communists ambush the carabiniers at one point, claiming that, though they may be allied with the carabiners' country, they are obliged ideologically to murder capitalists. Here I realized that a large number of aggressive nations during this time were capitalist. Later, near the end, a very long scene serves to criticize capitalism: the boys return home, saying that they have gathered everything in the world for their girlfriends. Yet they carry nothing but one suitcase. Here commences the longest single scene in the film, where the men reveal the contents of their suitcase. They have not collected everything on Earth, per se, but rather photographs of them. For one thing, this depicts Godard's main objective in life: to make us realize that we are watching a film, not involved in any sort of reality. With just photos, the lack of the real objects is even more ironic. Also, most of these objects photographed are objects that can never be owned: natural wonders, man-made wonders, and tons and tons of women, including ones long since dead. This petty ownership of photos (they also call them deeds) is a reductio ad absurdum for capitalism: the most important things in the world are unownable, and thus to own pictures of them is truly absurd.

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18 out of 27 people found the following review useful:

Why ?

10/10
Author: grizzli-2 (grizzli@free.fr) from Paris
8 August 2004

I don't understand how or why this movie was so much criticized. I just saw it on DVD and found it excellent. It's completely different of what Godard usually does : I tend to be a little disturbed by his systematic use of quotations (a good example is the recent "Eloge de l'amour"), and there is no such thing in "Les Carabiniers". The dialogs are completely pure, and there is a very clever use of enumerations, which seldom happens in a movie. Great scenes, like when the girl demands to tell a poem before she's executed, when Michel-Ange discovers the cinema, when Ulysse and Michel-Ange show Cléopâtre and Vénus the treasures they brought back from war... It's simple and beautiful.

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10 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

Effectively captures both reality and unreality of war (Spoilers)

9/10
Author: gabriel_morrison from london, england
30 November 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

One of the main things to bear in mind when watching Les Carabiniers is the context in which the film was made. Le Mépris, widely regarded as Godard's finest film, was made in the same year 1963; and it is clear in Le Mépris how much time was spent to attain perfection in composition. So Les Carabiniers can be seen as something of an experiment a rough and ready look at one of life's grittiest subjects, war, a stark contrast to the passion of Le Mépris.

The intertitles play a very important role in the film, both enabling communication between the soldiers and their wives and giving an important sense of passing time. The handwriting used gives a sense of personal feeling but at the same time the often short and factual text always addressed 'On', as if the feelings of both brothers can be captured in a few words, renders them highly impersonal. The other interesting quirk is the final intertitle being handwritten despite it clearly not being written by the brothers making it almost an epitaph.

The cohesive device of postcards is important in the film, one is used to encourage the brothers to join, the postcards that are acquired by the end of their service are for them the riches of the world and the way in which they are thrown into the air makes them seem almost like the money they are seeking in a scene borrowed from heist films. Godard also uses the postcard collection to be a brief encyclopedia of the world through methods of transport, animals, monuments etc. ultimately trivialising it though into something only worth a few seconds of attention.

The slightly broader device of images and art is seen throughout the film, the vanity in the wives created by the magazines is clearly frowned upon; their names Cleopatre and Venus clearly demonstrating what they aspire to. The excitement with which they greet the new magazines and subsequent humour when the underwear adverts are held up to their bodies demonstrates a clear disdain for the materialism which they encourage. The artwork that the brothers see in a house that they pillage however is treated with the utmost respect, and Michel-Ange utters the words "un soldat salut un artiste". This really means two things, that contemporary popular life contributes nothing to culture, and maybe a personal comment from Godard on the necessity of education in artistic appreciation.

The anti-materialistic message can also be seen in the attitude of the wives, in encouraging their husbands to go and fight and in their reception of their husbands on their return, asking first of all where their treasures are.

The mis en scene plays a very important role in the atmosphere of the film; the techniques used being almost the antithesis of the polished style of Hollywood. The camera is virtually never static and Godard appears not to have used a tripod on the whole even in the establishing shots, this gives the film a sense of realism and almost documentary style where the camera is following the action as it happens. The poor quality film stock adds to this, shunning both colour and resolution to give an unglamourous view of war.

The editing of the film is also very unusual; some cuts seem to break down the continuation of relation that is understood in the grammar of cinema. One of the slightly odder examples is when Ulysses is seen in a medium close-up firing his rifle into the air there is then a cut to library footage of plane taken from another plane, and a quick cut back to Ulysses suggesting that he was firing at the plane when the images seem so clearly disassociated. Another example is when one of the carabiniers at the end of the film says "Je vais vous expliquer" in a shot where he can be seen with the two brothers in a medium shot, there's then an edit with a few empty frames and a close up of the carabinier repeating the same line. The sound is very often dubbed a few frames too soon or late and there is often no sound at all when ambient sound would be appropriate. The disjointed nature seems to be a distinct and deliberate effort to make the filming of war as brutal as possible.

The reality of the war is something quite interesting and strange in the film as only two of the enemy soldiers are seen during the first 45 minutes of the film, there are however many seemingly innocent civilians harassed and killed. In fact the only time that actual fire fights are seen taking place is after the war is over for the two brothers and they are out to get their rewards, the only point at which they no longer have their rifles. The scene in which they are killed by one of the carabiniers suddenly reverses the contempt the audience has towards the brothers in that they have only signed up as mercenaries with no care to what they are doing, seeking to use to army to fulfill their material desires. It is then clear that in fact they have been used to satisfy the desire of the king, and this leaves a very bitter taste in the mouths of the audience.

The film is however not entirely depressing, and the scene in which Michel-Ange discovers cinema is one of the most enjoyable. The film was described by one critic at the time a homage to Lumière's films, and while it can be seen in the visual style throughout the film, the short in which a train can be seen entering a station and provokes a reaction of fear from Michel-Ange is a more direct link. The scene in which he falls through the screen while trying to interact with the film, is something that anyone who has ever seen a film will understand and sympathies with, conveying a palpable sense of naivety.

There are many quirks in the film that are never really explained but serve to illustrate the bizarre situations that war creates. The sequence with the Mexican woman, the fireworks display filmed in negative, the mysterious other man with the wives who scurries away upon the return of the brothers and the poem recited by the girl in front of the firing squad.

Using a combination of humour, the march down the frozen river, and pathos, the newsreel footage of dead soldiers, Godard effectively conveys the reality and unreality of war and most importantly in the end how no one benefits.

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12 out of 20 people found the following review useful:

one of the best anti-war films made.Vive la France!

10/10
Author: leybarsinister from Roseville, MN
1 November 2003

What an amazing film.From the opening notes of the military march, to the final scene,this is a harrowing ride through the landscapes of "soldiers pay."There is nothing slick or overproduced here,thank Godard. The use of actual letters from French soldiers in wars from 1812 to ww2, is a masterstroke that effectively ties the scenes together.This could be a documentary and is done in this style.This works very well with the vintage newsreel images that are also used to tie the scenes.If you are looking for a RAMBO type war -adventure,go rent a Chuck Norris film.If you are a serious fan of the war/anti-war genre,do not miss this one!

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4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Effectively captures both reality and unreality of war

9/10
Author: gabriel_morrison from london, england
30 November 2004

One of the main things to bear in mind when watching Les Carabiniers is the context in which the film was made. Le Mépris, widely regarded as Godard's finest film, was made in the same year 1963; and it is clear in Le Mépris how much time was spent to attain perfection in composition. So Les Carabiniers can be seen as something of an experiment a rough and ready look at one of life's grittiest subjects, war, a stark contrast to the passion of Le Mépris.

The intertitles play a very important role in the film, both enabling communication between the soldiers and their wives and giving an important sense of passing time. The handwriting used gives a sense of personal feeling but at the same time the often short and factual text always addressed 'On', as if the feelings of both brothers can be captured in a few words, renders them highly impersonal. The other interesting quirk is the final intertitle being handwritten despite it clearly not being written by the brothers making it almost an epitaph.

The cohesive device of postcards is important in the film, one is used to encourage the brothers to join, the postcards that are acquired by the end of their service are for them the riches of the world and the way in which they are thrown into the air makes them seem almost like the money they are seeking in a scene borrowed from heist films. Godard also uses the postcard collection to be a brief encyclopedia of the world through methods of transport, animals, monuments etc. ultimately trivialising it though into something only worth a few seconds of attention.

The slightly broader device of images and art is seen throughout the film, the vanity in the wives created by the magazines is clearly frowned upon; their names Cleopatre and Venus clearly demonstrating what they aspire to. The excitement with which they greet the new magazines and subsequent humour when the underwear adverts are held up to their bodies demonstrates a clear disdain for the materialism which they encourage. The artwork that the brothers see in a house that they pillage however is treated with the utmost respect, and Michel-Ange utters the words "un soldat salut un artiste". This really means two things, that contemporary popular life contributes nothing to culture, and maybe a personal comment from Godard on the necessity of education in artistic appreciation.

The anti-materialistic message can also be seen in the attitude of the wives, in encouraging their husbands to go and fight and in their reception of their husbands on their return, asking first of all where their treasures are.

The mis en scene plays a very important role in the atmosphere of the film; the techniques used being almost the antithesis of the polished style of Hollywood. The camera is virtually never static and Godard appears not to have used a tripod on the whole even in the establishing shots, this gives the film a sense of realism and almost documentary style where the camera is following the action as it happens. The poor quality film stock adds to this, shunning both colour and resolution to give an unglamourous view of war.

The editing of the film is also very unusual; some cuts seem to break down the continuation of relation that is understood in the grammar of cinema. One of the slightly odder examples is when Ulysses is seen in a medium close-up firing his rifle into the air there is then a cut to library footage of plane taken from another plane, and a quick cut back to Ulysses suggesting that he was firing at the plane when the images seem so clearly disassociated. Another example is when one of the carabiniers at the end of the film says "Je vais vous expliquer" in a shot where he can be seen with the two brothers in a medium shot, there's then an edit with a few empty frames and a close up of the carabinier repeating the same line. The sound is very often dubbed a few frames too soon or late and there is often no sound at all when ambient sound would be appropriate. The disjointed nature seems to be a distinct and deliberate effort to make the filming of war as brutal as possible.

The reality of the war is something quite interesting and strange in the film as only two of the enemy soldiers are seen during the first 45 minutes of the film, there are however many seemingly innocent civilians harassed and killed. In fact the only time that actual fire fights are seen taking place is after the war is over for the two brothers and they are out to get their rewards, the only point at which they no longer have their rifles. The scene in which they are killed by one of the carabiniers suddenly reverses the contempt the audience has towards the brothers in that they have only signed up as mercenaries with no care to what they are doing, seeking to use to army to fulfill their material desires. It is then clear that in fact they have been used to satisfy the desire of the king, and this leaves a very bitter taste in the mouths of the audience.

The film is however not entirely depressing, and the scene in which Michel-Ange discovers cinema is one of the most enjoyable. The film was described by one critic at the time a homage to Lumière's films, and while it can be seen in the visual style throughout the film, the short in which a train can be seen entering a station and provokes a reaction of fear from Michel-Ange is a more direct link. The scene in which he falls through the screen while trying to interact with the film, is something that anyone who has ever seen a film will understand and sympathies with, conveying a palpable sense of naivety.

There are many quirks in the film that are never really explained but serve to illustrate the bizarre situations that war creates. The sequence with the Mexican woman, the fireworks display filmed in negative, the mysterious other man with the wives who scurries away upon the return of the brothers and the poem recited by the girl in front of the firing squad.

Using a combination of humour, the march down the frozen river, and pathos, the newsreel footage of dead soldiers, Godard effectively conveys the reality and unreality of war and most importantly in the end how no one benefits.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

War Is Swell

5/10
Author: wes-connors from Earth
22 June 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Two soldiers arrive in a poor, desolate French-speaking area. They initially threaten, then announce "The King" needs troops for war. Recruited into service are taller, cigar-smoking Marino Mase (as Ulysses) and shorter, cigarette-smoking Albert Juross (as Michel-Ange). The brothers are promised cars, women and all imaginable riches will be their reward for service. Moreover, being war soldiers allows them to steal slot machines, break a kid's arm, burn towns, and massacre innocent people. They will even be allowed to eat at restaurants and not pay. The new soldiers happily start out killing people, but get world-weary after three years of service. When the war ends, the men own postcards of the world's landmarks. Lastly, they receive a surprise...

Jean-Luc Godard essays a point-of-view more accomplished elsewhere. Granted, some famous critics have praised this one. The scene involving Michel-Ange's first visit to a cinema was the highlight. He wants to get a better look at a blonde in her bathtub. This scene can be removed from the film without altering the narrative in the slightest; enjoy it as a short.

***** Les carabiniers (5/31/63) Jean-Luc Godard ~ Marino Mase, Albert Juross, Genevieve Galea, Catherine Ribeiro

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4 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

a film that challenges audience's expectations to the conventions of a war film

9/10
Author: MisterWhiplash from United States
2 March 2006

One of Godard's better films from the 60's, which like a number of his films from his prime era is usually either liked a lot or detested to hell, is almost audience-dividing on purpose. His film is a black comedy that sometimes is (successfully) deceptively a bleak drama of corruption of the working man in times of War. Stylistically it is Godard all the way, though one can't disregard the likely significant contributions (though it may be hard to detect since it IS Godard's mouth all over the pie so to speak) of screenwriters Jean Gurault (usually Truffaut's co-writer), and (apparently) Roberto Rossellini. Rossellini, who was one of Godard's big influences, is countered by what was also a big influence likely on this picture, Samuel Fuller, the king of B War pictures. So one could look at the quasi-split of ideals in the film, of Rossellini's documentary style of telling it like it is, crossed with Fuller's hard professionalism and no-holds-barred view of War. Whomever influence comes through stronger, this is really Godard's show, and has here something that is fairly usual in terms of his challenging styles and criticizing past films (including Truffaut with his own comments on War depicted in film), but also is unique for how it is presented, and makes it a difficult, though rewarding experience. This is the French new-wave equivalent, to put it another way, to Sam Mendes's Jarhead; you're not sure if this really should be classified as a typical 'war' film, despite being in a league of other films already in place.

One thing that is as fascinating as it is occasionally frustrating is Godard's main male actors, Albert Muross and Marino Mase, are not very expressive, and of course are not really 'actors' in the traditional sense (at least at the time they were close to un-professionals). But maybe that is what's needed, dumb farm boys who are propogandized into going to fight for their invading, nameless country; the opening scenes of the list of things the men will get is equally funny and troubling. Then the boys go off to war, and there is a really astute episodic kind of storytelling used, which works considering the short time length. One scene that really stood out was when one of the soldiers goes to see his first film ever, and is almost like some kind of primate seeing a woman disrobing on a screen (it's also arguably the funniest scene in the film). When the boys come home they are loaded with pictures, in a scene that is the one that almost had me questioning if it was either really good or really too long; the length of the list of pictures is like a litmus test for moviegoers- can you take all of these images, done almost to make a point that's not too clear?

But what makes Les Carabiniers work for me is how it is so un-like other war films that it stands alone on its own terms, like a French new-wave Dr. Strangelove (though maybe not a masterpiece like that one). At times I wasn't totally sure where the satire started or ended, and there is a certain distance that Godard places with his many long-shots getting in as much landscape as tanks and soldiers with their guns. What's surprising is how the tone is always assured, which is crucial considering this is a story told through the side of the invaders this time, men working under their elusive King for land and riches and wealth. One of the best scenes I may have seen in any Godard film is when they have a woman who is at first thought to be 'a friend' of the soldiers, but then goes off on a Leninist rant. The men are about to shoot her, but can't for a few minutes, as the words she says strike some kind of chord in their primal mindsets. Amid montages of archive footage of planes flying and bombs dropping, there's a scene that would never ever be in any 'conventional' war picture. There's a real thought process going on here, and even if it's got some of Godard's usual 'f*** you, it's my style, take it or leave it' attitude, it's not totally un-accessible either. It's a slim volume of gritty anti-War pathos, and it's maybe a tad under-rated in the director's massive catalog.

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