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Made in U.S.A.: The Girl Can’t Help It

Made in U.S.A.: The Girl Can't Help It

As evidenced by Clint Eastwood’s Flags of Our Fathers/Letters from Iwo Jima and Steven Soderbergh’s separable diptych Che, paired feature films have recently become common occurrences. But, as usual, Jean-Luc Godard was there first, and long before. Produced at the same time as Two or Three Things I Know About Her (literally—Two or Three Things was shot in the mornings and its counterpart in the afternoons), Godard’s 1966 Made in U.S.A. serves as a sort of cinematic B-side to the far more canonical former film, a playful, yet ominous, inversion of its companion piece’s Lego block¬–colored realism—Godard even suggested, in the spirit of Faulkner’s The Wild Palms, that the two films be projected together in alternated reels. Two or Three Things gets the good stuff, the philosophic, sociological, and semiotic highlights—haunting voice-over musings on being and nothingness, investigations into economic and spiritual prostitution, Bouvard and Pécuchet-style/Dadaist book excerpt mishmashes—while Made in U.S.A. takes up generic experimentation and allusion, the kind of through-the-looking-glass venture into the subversive possibilities of Hollywood B-movies that Godard, on the cusp of his political allegiance to Marxist anti-commercial filmmaking, was just beginning to lose interest in. Needless to say, it’s a qualitative imbalance to the often-confused Made in U.S.A.’s considerable disadvantage.

Gravitating toward Two or Three Things has long been the common-sense bet for the critic, an act of favoritism helped by Godard himself, who wrote in May 1967, just after the release of that film a few months following Made in U.S.A., “Two or Three Things I Know About Her is much more ambitious (than Made in U.S.A.), both on the documentary level, since it is about the replanning of the Parisian area, and on the level of pure research, since it is a film in which I am continually asking myself what I’m doing.”

Click here to read the rest of Michael Joshua Rowin’s review of Made in U.S.A.

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