Made in USA (1966)

Jean-Luc Godard said Made in USA was a remake of The Big Sleep. Obviously that’s why the film bears no resemblance to it and was in fact adapted from another book entirely by Donald Westlake. The latter is at least partly responsible for the film’s obscurity; given that the film was an unauthorised adaptation, Westlake managed to keep the thing from being shown in the US in his lifetime, meaning that apart from one film festival screening in 1967 it never appeared there until last year (whereupon Criterion were quick to grab the DVD rights). So obviously it was almost completely unknown in the US, though I don’t know about outside that land; but certainly it’s a title I don’t recall having encountered too often in the reading I’ve done on Godard. Given the rate at which he churned films out back then, I suppose something had to fall through the cracks. Anyway, I said when I rewatched Pierrot le fou back in February that it suddenly hit me that, ultimately Godard’s films are about artifice more than anything, and about not much more than that, and Made in USA just gave me the same impression, with the exception that the longer it went on the angrier it made me. By about the halfway point I’m not sure if I was even following it, though as the Criterion essay observes, The Big Sleep is infamously complicated so you could argue that was how Godard “remade” it, i.e. by making his own film barely understandable. I’m sorry, though, the admittedly pretty colours aren’t enough; this really was bullshit of the highest order, a bigger load of wank than I’d expected even from one of the great onanists of cinema. One day I may finally understand exactly why it is I persist in feeling every now and then that I should give Godard another go in case I suddenly “get it” in the way I got Powell & Pressburger or Herzog (neither of whom I liked at all until both suddenly became favourites after I gave them another try), but that’s a mystery I doubt I’ll solve tonight. And I’ve still got Le gai savoir on my unwatched films list; better get that out of the way as soon as I can, I suppose… sigh.

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