La Chinoise (1967)

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Released 25-May-2005

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-James Hewison (Director Of Melbourne Int. Film Festival)
Trailer-The Leopard, The Battle Of Algiers, The Weather Underground
Trailer-The Town Is Quiet, La Strada, Down By Law, Crush
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1967
Running Time 92:16 (Case: 96)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (64:26) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Jean-Luc Godard
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Anne Wiazemsky
Jean-Pierre Léaud
Juliet Berto
Michel Semeniako
Lex De Bruijn
Omar Diop
Francis Jeanson
Blandine Jeanson
Eliane Giovagnoli
Pierre Degeyter
Michel Legrand
Franz Schubert
Karlheinz Stockhausen
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Pierre Degeyter
Michel Legrand
Franz Schubert


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None French Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.29:1
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles English Smoking Yes, heaps of it
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    This is not the sort of film that you would want to buy or rent for a evening's mindless entertainment. It tells of some middle-class young Parisians who spend their lives discussing Marxist-Leninist and Maoist dogma. They are critical of Stalin and seek to live out the literal intent of the teachings of Mao Zedong, though their actions, until the last part of the film, seems to involve talking a lot. It features Jean-Pierre Léaud, Juliet Berto and Anne Wiazemsky (by filming's end, Mrs Godard to you). If you want a plot, you'll have to make one up yourself, as it is too difficult to try to fashion a description of what this movie is about. Suffice it to say that it is a thorough exploration of bourgeois Marxism, with an often light tone, little in the way of obvious narrative thrust and even includes an interview on-board a train with the well-known academic Francis Jeanson.

    Like Jean-Luc Godard's earlier films, this movie is quite inventive and radical for the period, and also quite funny. I probably didn't get most of the jokes in La Chinoise, but when seen with an audience Godard's 1960s work can often be uproarious. In a quieter locale, they can seem pretentious or even boring. I'm sure that this one isn't, though it is a little less accessible than the movies that preceded it. It is hard to tell, without being an expert or even a dilettante on the subject of Maoism or Marxism (I prefer Groucho to Karl) to what extent this film is a left-wing polemic and to what extent it is intended as a critique of bourgeois communism. It certainly can be read as the latter, but the former escapes me if it is in fact there.

    Godard seems intent on distancing the viewer from the narrative, partly by not having one, and partly by the use of Brechtian distancing techniques which reinforce the notion that you are watching a film. The actors talk to an off screen narrator (not unlike Bergman's A Passion), we see the sound man and the cinematographer at the camera, we see clapper boards and the film often looks like a rough cut. Colours are primary and the music tends to stand out. While it may not make for engrossing entertainment, this was groundbreaking stuff at the time that might seem passé today. It also was quite prescient, given the socialist uprisings amongst European students the following year.

    There seem to be a few references that may be obscure to some people. There is an obvious in-joke referring to Rossellini's Germania Anno Zero, followed almost immediately by a reference to Wilhelm Meister, the lead character in Goethe's Wilhelm Meister's Years of Apprenticeship, which tells of a young man's growth to maturity. It appears to be the name of the character played by Léaud, Gallicised to Guillaume. Godard then sardonically shows us what Guillaume's apprenticeship leads to.

    Godard fans will of course snap up this film, but casual viewers should be forewarned.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.29:1, not far from the original 1.37:1.

    The transfer is pretty good in terms of sharpness and clarity, with plenty of detail visible. Contrast and brightness are good, with excellent shadow detail. Colours are slightly muted, but still come across well despite oversaturation of reds. There is considerable use of primary colours, especially reds and blues, while flesh tones seem realistic.

    Aliasing is a problem throughout, with slight shimmering present often. There is also minor edge enhancement and some evidence of Gibb Effect.

    The optional subtitles in English are clear and without spelling mistakes or timing errors. They are in clear yellow font, though the translation of some title cards are shown in a white font to distinguish them from dialogue. Some of the title cards disappear so quickly that there is no subtitling.

    The disc is RSDL-formatted with the layer change slightly disruptively placed at 64:26.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, in the original French.

    Dialogue is clear but has a tendency to be shrill in some of the louder sequences. This is clearly not the best mono recording you will ever hear, with some slightly muffled sounds and lots of little noises (which may have been in the original soundtrack, judging by the deliberate inclusion of some film markings). It does not seem to matter much, as this is not a film you are meant to be seduced into a state of suspended disbelief by.

    Music comprises snippets of popular and classical music, as well as revolutionary songs and a humorous song about the late Chinese leader.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Audio

    The audio on the main menu is the song about Mao.

Audio Commentary-James Hewison

    This was to me a disappointing commentary from the director of the Melbourne International Film Festival. He spends most of the film telling us what is happening on the screen and assessing it in story terms. There is little about Godard's involvement with Marxism, and it really did not increase my understanding of the film very much. His delivery and speaking voice are quite good, so this is less of a chore than had it been a dry, monotonic presentation. But there are little errors. He seems to think that the film was also called à la Chinoise (the Chinese Way), but it was really La Chinoise, ou plutôt à la chinoise: Un film en train de se faire, which with my limited French means something like The Chinese, or Rather in the Chinese Way, a Film Being Made. He also misidentifies a photograph of Heinrich Himmler as Goebbels, and says something is about to happen to a character which actually happens nearly 40 minutes later.

Trailers-The Leopard, The Battle Of Algiers, The Weather Underground Trailer-The Town Is Quiet, La Strada, Down By Law, Crush (16:25)

    Trailers for other Madman releases.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This appears to be an identical transfer to the UK Region 2 version, though that release has a short video introduction in place of the audio commentary. Sounds like the Region 4 is the winner.

Summary

    A difficult film to categorise, other than to say it is typical Godard.

    The video quality is good but suffers from video artefacts.

    The audio quality is average.

    A less than useful commentary is the main extra.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Thursday, July 28, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

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