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Les Carabiniers is the fourth feature film French New Wave director
Jean-Luc Godard made, as he took the sixties by storm with his
convention-defying techniques and incredibly layered content that
derived greatly from traditionalist French ideas. I can imagine some of
the shockwaves this film in particular sent through France and its
neighboring lands. The film is essentially a critique of war done with
the familiar tunes of satire to some discernible effect. I will say
that after watching Godard's incalculably disappointing eight-part
series Histoire(s) du Cinéma, sitting down to watch another Godard film
wasn't in my best interest, but it paid off considerably this time
The film tells the story of two poor souls who are ordered to serve in battle. They are Ulysses (Marino Mase) and Michelangelo (Albert Juross), who were attracted to the job under the false pretenses that it would bring them wealth and sustainable happiness in the world around them. Their wives, Venus and Cleopatra (Catherine Ribeiro and Genevieve Galea) are doing nothing but encouraging them after hearing about the riches that are in order if they do fight. The two men set course for the battlefields, destroying and complicating every situation in their path, recounting their experiences through postcards through their wives that express the horrors and unforeseen ugliness of battle they weren't prepared for.
Watching Les Carabiniers in 2014 America as a teenager, where for more than half of my life my country has been involved in an overseas war, the film undoubtedly expresses ideas that aren't foreign but frighteningly close to home. In a country that provides subpar care and opportunities for its struggling veterans and where families are distraught every day through deaths overseas, the film provides for a painfully familiar idea to people that war is hell and there's no way to sugarcoat it. Even more surprising is that this commentary is pretty extractable because anybody who knows Jean-Luc Godard, clarity and straightforward formulation of thought are not what he likes to do.
There isn't much to say about the film other than it isn't as serious as it may seem; several small chuckles and jokes are made during the film but serious conversations are had between characters that, in turn, replicate a sad reality many have gone on to accept as the norm. This is just one of the many examples of Godard showing that he was ahead of his time and, look, he didn't have to make a message so alienating and ambiguous after all.
Starring: Marino Mase, Albert Juross, Catherine Ribeiro, and Genevieve Galea. Directed by: Jean-Luc Godard.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
While watching Les Carabiniers it is immediately evident that Godard is making a statement in an individualistic way. Is it a satirical portrait of society at war, a black comedy poking fun at realistic drama, or an experimental project through which Godard exercising his right to redefine himself and his cinematic style? The film is undeniably a combination of all three. Two military officers arrive at a shack which, surrounded by barren land in every direction, is home to two men and their supposed wives. The officers blind the foursome with promises of riches and glory stating, "in the current times the police should learn to distract the population." The two men enlist and trot off to war, eager to "slaughter the innocent" and learn of "worldly women". A series of detached scenes ensues, illustrating the nature of war as the duo execute their plan to murder and misuse. Postcards arrive at home telling the women of their bloody exploits. The absurdity of war is made clear by the end of the film when the King loses the war, the men return home penniless, and life goes on much as it did before perhaps with a slightly more bitter tinge. While the film makes a political statement it is perhaps not as enjoyable to watch if one is not well versed in or highly admirable of Godard's work.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Godard is considered on of the best directors ever and this is a good
example why. The illogical stupidity of war is well reflected in a very
illogical screenplay. The director made a deep reflection of things
around the war. Stupid arguments to join the army like everything is
permitted: to ripe, to steal, to kill innocents, to have a lot of
richness, to visit different countries, to have immunity because a
letter from the king. Then when the men of the house were convinced to
join the king's army started a very interesting sequences where they
are describing brutalities of the combats with an apparently cold
blood. Actually we can see the handwriting on screen: "We shoot the
rebels on the head, we bury them in a common hole, when is full just
put some soil on the top". The movie continues in a series of sequences
between the two male main characters (Michel Angelo and Ulyses,
performed by Albert Juross and Marino Mase, respectively) and the two
females at home (Catherine Ribeiro and Genieveve Galea, Cleopatre and
Venus). The contact between them is the letters and postcards, where
they described a lot of war insanities.
A good sequence occurs when Michel Angelo meets the movies for the first time. He is almost in the front and he reacts with the events in the screen: he feels terrified when the train is arriving to the station and he wanted to "see more" when the young lady is taking a shower. The end is probably the most coherent result of the incoherences showed. The two guys returned home with nothing but postcards as the only richness they obtained and cruel dead at the hands of the men (the rifle men) who recruited them in the first place. At the end war, is so absurd that only absurd things could result of it.
This film was written by Jean-Luc Godard with Roberto Rosellini, based in the homonym play by Beniammino Joppolo. In the natural way of Godard's early films, his technique is full of direct cuts and against Hollywood standards: the camera follows the action and there is no real sequence between the shots. Anyhow the result is superb. If you like different proposals with lot of criticism and situations to make you think and you are against the war and stupidity you will like this movie, if not, well make your conclusions.
During a war, the poor and ignorant brothers Ulysses (Marino Mase) and
Michel-Ange (Albert Juross) are lured and recruited by two soldiers
that promise wealth to them in the name of their King. The greedy wife
of Ulysses Cleopatre (Catherine Ribeiro) and her daughter Venus
(Geneviève Galéa) ask them to enlist to pursue fortune. They travel to
Italy and become unscrupulous criminals of war. When Ulysses is wounded
in one eye, he returns home with Michel-Ange and a small bag full of
postcards of famous locations and the promise that they would be
entitled of the properties in the end of the war. However, when the
King signs the peace treaty with their enemy, they find that the
agreement was actually surrender and they have a prize to pay for their
"Les Carabiniers" is another boring and annoying movie of Jean-Luc Godard. The anti-war message uses a black humor that might work for fans of this director, but unfortunately I did not like it. The gorgeous Geneviève Galéa is the mother of the wonderful Emmanuelle Béart, one of the most sexy, talented and beautiful French actresses. My vote is five.
Title (Brazil): "Tempo de Guerra" ("Time of War")
Jean Rouch has called this movie, the best anti war movie ever. He points out that the anti-epic character of the movie comes most close to the character of war, because war also works really anti-epic, too. So I really can't understand why the first comment to this movie on this page, which is really foolish and just shows that its writer has no idea of movies at all, isn't removed!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It insults the work of a genius.
As countrymen fight amongst themselves, two farmers join the fight for
riches and fame, writing home to their wives with their view of the
battle. Godard used actual letters from soldiers in various wars as a
The film was originally panned as the worst film ever made. So much so that Godard pulled the film from all distribution. Amusingly thought provoking.
The best scenes in the film come during their fighting for "the king". Unknown enemy, speaking the same language and wearing the same uniforms, Godard successfully blurs the lines of war and reason.
Compare this with "Le Mepris." One is a wonderful meditation on
film-making saturated with the director's one personal issues. It
shouldn't work, but it does, and spells out a real talent. The other is
an absurdest's take on war and the ignorant and animalistic impulses
that it spawns. This also shouldn't work, and it doesn't. All the
cinema-verity arguments in the world aren't going to change the fact
that the film sets out to create a wholly unconvincing argument for the
absurdity of war.
Perhaps as a 60's French director, Godard wasn't as immune from the vogue political ideas of the time as we might like to think, and this might be him purging it from his cinematic career. And something might be said for the film as encompassing a movement that the director himself doesn't even need to agree with.
But, as Truffaut pointed out, it may be just as hard to film a satire on war as it is to make a decent adaptation of "The Odyssey."
3 out of 5 - Some interesting elements
Saw this film on TCM this past Friday and found it to be a weak
effort attempting to be a powerful anti-war statement. Two uniformed French
militia break into the home of this small family living in the French
boonies and press the men into service with promises of untold wealth and
plunder. They decide it sounds like a good deal and join the King's army.
From there, we see them engage in the various pointless exploits of war
until the King makes peace and their dreams of fortune turn to nothing.
This film attempts to be a serious commentary on the nihilism of war but is executed without much depth. The two "list" scenes in the movie, (the riflemen detailing each item of plunder at the soldier's disposal and the French soldiers returning home with a suitcase full of snapshots of their travels), lasted, I would estimate, about a hundred years, and if you remove them from the film, the running time is about 9 minutes. Couple of good scenes (a titillating film being watched in small theatre and a pretty blonde revolutionary getting blown away by firing squad) but not enough to recommend this film. For better Godard, see Breathless or Le Petit Soldat. Leave this klunker in the discount rack. *1/2*
A Godard war film. Of course, you can expect lots of politics, a
completely impersonal and detached sort of film, one which doesn't have
a rosy view of human nature, and contains satirical elements.
Essentially, "Les Carabiniers" is a film that attempts to be neither
involving nor formally compelling, and inhabits a world of its own,
really. It's dark and vicious and ugly, but stops for comic set-pieces
and unabashedly dark satirical digs at war-mongerers and violence in
general. It's not really an anti-war film, it's an anti-'war film'
which completely subverts all of the conventions of the genre.
As far as Godard's ouevre goes, this is unquestionably one of his least satisfying works, and competes with "Made in U.S.A." for the title of his worst 60's film. The jokes are smug and self-satisfied (without being interesting, as much of Godard's work is), and the politics are similar to what made Godard's Marxist period in the late sixties/early seventies so unbearably aggravating. "Les Carabiniers", with its plot concerning two peasants drafted into the king's army, whose victories on the battlefields lead to their execution as traitors, offers little of worth narratively or even on a technical level, with some interesting experimental editing and typically Godard-ian attempts to remind the audience that it's just a movie shining bright amidst a muddle of superficial and rather stupid political satire and scatter-shot attempts at disconnect and surrealism.
"Les Carabiniers" was originally regarded as a disaster, but is now acclaimed by many. Neither consensus has it right, but I'd say that the critics who lambasted it in the 60's were a bit closer to the truth than those who praise it today. It's an important film to see when studying Godard as an auteur, but it is indicative of his worst rather than his best work.
After catching this film on Turner Movie Classics last night I wondered
all the fuss was about. I remember hearing and reading about this film in
the 70's and 80's as being one of the great grand-daddy's of anti-war
After sitting though it, all 85 minutes of agony, and hoping that every
minute that this film will get better, I realized that this is simply a
film. My expectations were higher, considering what these
had produced (Jules and Jim, Contempt, Weekend, The Wild Child, etc.) but
what came out was worse than some sort of no or low budget sophomoric
attempt to make a statement that fails. Even the attempt at humor, one of
the brothers at his first movie, became a very cheap and childish shadow
About 1/3 of the way through I simply gave up caring about either one of the brothers (or their moronic wives) and stuck with the film simply because I hoped that there would something that would elevate it from putting it the same class as two 10 year olds who got a hold of daddy's movie camera. It never did. Even the cast members who had lesser roles, the car salesman, the Italian woman, the communist girl, etc., all looked as bored as I felt. The young communist girl actually looked happy to be killed just so she could get out of this mess.
Plan 9 From Outer Space, move over.
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