(1960)3Wheeler Winston DixonLe Petit Soldat is an early Jean-Luc Godard film that was made on a shoestring budget. Michel Subor (who would surface years later in Claire Denis' Beau Travail  to great critical acclaim), stars here as Bruno Forestier, a young revolutionary living in Geneva who is fighting against French involvement in the war in Algeria. He meets and falls in love with rival revolutionary Veronica Dreyer (Anna Karina, soon to be Godard's wife), and the mutual recriminations begin. Shot like a newsreel, much of the film is photographed with a hand-held camera, with sound post-synchronized; a "film noir" narration holds the film together, but the narrative, as is usual with Godard, is slight. It is some measure of Godard's political commitment, even this early in his career, that he would forsake the proven commercial formula that had brought him such success with Breathless (1960) and create a brooding, moody, often violent film, complete with explicit sequences of torture, patterned after the actions of the occupying French forces in Algeria. These scenes resulted in the movie being banned by the French government for some time, but it is now readily available on DVD. Breathless now seems like a light, affectionate take on the American gangster film (which is what it always was; Godard himself referred to it as "Alice in Wonderland"), but Le Petit Soldat has much greater artistic conviction when viewed in light of contemporary events (substitute the war in Iraq for the French occupation of Algeria, and you begin to get the idea). Viewed in this light, the film has a pressing claim on our collective memory, and signals the beginnings of Godard as a mature political artist. Raw, unpolished, and deliberately downbeat, Le Petit Soldat marks the beginning of Godard's engagement with issues of personal responsibility in times of war, and is also, surprisingly, one of the most accessible films of his long career. It is highly recommended.
This controversial spy-romance tale by Jean-Luc Godard was banned from release in France for three years because it refers to the use of torture on both the French and Algerian sides during the Algerian struggle for independence. The story focuses on Bruno Forestier (Michel Subor), a young, disillusioned man who becomes involved in politics, yet in spite of the fact that he stands up to torture and commits murder because of this involvement, he does not have deep political beliefs. Also featured is his lover Veronica Dreyer (Anna Karina, then-wife of director Jean-Luc Godard appearing in her first film) as a motivating factor in Bruno's behavior.