Back in 1966, with French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard’s career in full swing, he turned his attentions to two novels and created the film Made in U.S.A.
The film, starring the likes of Anna Karina, Jean-Pierre Léaud, László Szabó, and Yves Afonso, became shrouded in red tape controversy amid unpaid adaptation rights. At the time of its creation, Godard was inspired by Howard Hawks’ film The Big Sleep which was officially based on Raymond Chandler’s novel of the same name. However, that particular film was unofficially based Donald E. Westlake’s novel, The Jugger, who had not received any adaptation payments.
When the time came for Godard to release his new film Made in U.S.A., Westlake took legal action against the New Wave Frenchman and his producers. The somewhat unfortunate turn of events had resulted in Godard being refused a release date in the USA. Fast-forward 43 years, to April 1, 2009, and the film was given its US premiere which occurred three months after author Westlake had passed away.
The controversy surrounding the film is not the only reason the project is so well remembered today. Made in U.S.A. signalled the final time Godard and Anna Karina would collaborate on a full-length film, drawing a close on an iconic working relationship.
Godard, at the time of making this film, had been recognised for having the ability to “challenge both commercial narrative cinema norms and film criticism’s vocabulary” with his work, using the familiar forms of editing and shooting that had served him so well. At one point in the film, Godard introduces a young Marianne Faithfull for a particularly memorable cafe scene. Her cameo, hailed as one of the most impressive sections of the film, sees Faithfull sing Rolling Stones song ‘As Tears Go By’ a cappella as Godard cuts to other characters in the cafe.
“There is, for one thing, a pouting and lovely Marianne Faithfull singing an a cappella version of ‘As Tears Go By’,” writes film critic A.O. Scott. “There are skinny young men smoking and arguing. There are the bright Pop colours of modernity juxtaposed with the weathered, handsome ordinariness of Old France, all of it beautifully photographed by Raoul Coutard.
“There are political speeches delivered via squawk box. And of course, there is a maddening, liberating indifference to conventions of narrative coherence, psychological verisimilitude or emotional accessibility.”
Two years after directing Made in U.S.A. and including the song, Godard would go on to shoot The Rolling Stones in his documentary ‘Sympathy for the Devil’.
Enjoy the clip, below.