Jean-Luc Godard fans have cause to rejoice as the Criterion Collection has just issued releases of “Made in U.S.A.” and “2 or 3 Things I Know About Her,” both previously out of print and difficult to track down in the US.
“The greatest film by the greatest post-1950s filmmaker, Jean-Luc Godard’s ‘2 or 3 Things I Know About Her’ presents the critic, humbled by the beauty of its surfaces, the density of its ideas, and the uncanny coherence of its fragmented structure, with a writing dilemma,” writes critic Amy Taubin in a piece on the film for Criterion. “Better to describe ‘2 or 3 Things’ as a machine that morphs the colliding meanings of words and objects with dazzling speed, and generates an astonishing array of metaphors, paradoxes, digressions, and, above all, dialectical relationships, between idea and action, word and image, sound and picture, interior and exterior, microcosm and macrocosm. The swirling surface of a cup of coffee is transformed into the primordial ooze and also the infinite universe; two women in a café look at a magazine from different angles, but the collaged and cartooned female faces and bodies on its pages are degrading from any perspective.”
“‘Made in U.S.A.’ fits perfectly into Godard’s evolutionary passage from metafilm messiah to Marxist didact, from the buoyant gamesmanship of ‘Alphaville,’ ‘Pierrot le Fou’ and ‘Masculin Féminin’ to the narrative-fuckup radicalism of ‘2 or 3 Things I Know About Her’ (also a new Criterion DVD), ‘La Chinoise’ and ‘Week-End,'” notes Michael Atkinson for IFC. “Riffing impishly on noir clichés, composing life as if it were a comic strip, fracturing his ersatz story into slivery mirror shards, lollygagging through dramatic confrontations, cutting in splats of audio and advertising and visual punctuation, tossing off movie-movie allusions, indulging in irrational jokes, lacerating Americanization and the crassness of modern culture — it’s all there, all stewed together into a feverish, mysterious brew that’s less a traditional masterpiece than an open-source exploration of the cinema-life interface.”
The New York Press’ Armond White contends: “Both these widescreen spectacles can help remind moviegoers how important it is to appreciate movies as a visual art form that represents the world and the imagination with creativity and integrity. That’s what is missing from the ‘Harry Potter’ junk where imagery is corrupted into tired, over-familiar, non-visceral special-effects. ‘Made in U.S.A.’ and ‘2 or 3 Things’ have more in common with the visual wit of Michael Bay’s ‘Transformers 2.’ It is Godard’s bold example that taught Bay to love sound and image. All these films share a visual language and a way of seeing the world that is rooted in an artistic use of technology. What a triple bill.”
“Made during the later stages of Godard’s French New Wave period, ‘2 or 3 Things I Know About Her’ remains one of his most despairing and contemplative works. More than any of the fifteen features he made between ‘59 and ‘67, it points the way toward the non-narrative cinematic essays and political tracts he would make with Jean Pierre-Gorin for much of the intervening decade,” writes Michael Tully in Hammer to Nail. “Shot at the same time as the also just Criterion-released ‘Made in U.S.A.’—he would shoot one in the morning/early afternoon, the other in the late afternoon/evening—it brings us a Godard who is beginning to meditate on the failure of tumultuous times and the corruption of elites to introduce radical social and political change in a way that is still all too relevant.”
The verdict at DVD Verdict? “Whether I liked ‘Made in U.S.A.’ or not—and, at this point, I honestly couldn’t say—it’s American DVD release is a big deal. For many years, the movie was almost impossible to see; it screened once in the U.S. in the 1960s and never again for another 40 years. It’s DVD release has been delayed due to a rights issue with ‘The Jugger,’ the novel on which the movie is ‘based.’ Now, here it is, a seemingly-slight but important and transitional entry into the filmography of one of cinema’s most essential directors. At least, I think.”
DVD Talk has reviews of the reissues, as well. Jamie S. Rich notes that “‘Made in U.S.A.’ was part of the filmic shift into the final phase of Jean-Luc Godard’s 1960s oeuvre. A pulpy dismantling of American crime fiction, it substitutes battles over cash and reputations with battles over political ideals… This Criterion disc is a nice package with great extras, and though Donald Westlake may not have liked what Godard had done with his novel, we can enjoy ‘Made in U.S.A.’ like never before.” And on “2 or 3 Things” Rich observes that “Coming with the usual excellent Criterion extras and a knock-out transfer, it’s another win for Godard fans.”