Movie Review: Le Petit Soldat

By Moira Sullivan
Movie Magazine International
Le Petit Soldat is Jean Luc Godard's second film made in 1960 (released in 1963) and starring his soon to be girlfriend Anna Karina. There are legendary anecdotes about how he put an ad in a trade paper to find an actress and girlfriend for his new film. Karina who had already turned him down for a part in Breathless where she would have to undress was furious at Godard once again. Her boyfriend accompanied her on the shoot in Geneva to protect her from Godard, but to no avail. Godard wanted Karina to stop working after this picture but she chose to work with another director. So impressed was he with her work that she went on to star in several films by him. This is not a film about a young underage model from Copenhagen who needed her motherss permission to sign a contract. It's about the beginning of Anna Karina's career and work with Godard. The picture was pitched as a political film to Karina who claimed she knew nothing about politics. The story is about a right wing secret agent for French terrorist groups who has deserted the French army. He is asked to kill a certain Palovida who is suspected of being a member of Front de liberation nationale, an organization for the liberation of Algeria, to prove he is not a double agent. He seems to always miss the opportunity to shoot Palovida which angers his colleagues. Instead he wants to secure passports for himself and the girl that he falls in love with, after a 50-dollar bet that he won't fall in love with her. Its easy to see why one would be enraptured with the young Karina, it is not only her mature beauty at only age 20, but an enchanting and instinctive form of acting, with exquisite timing, elegance and style. So much has been said about Karina's face but little about the presence and intensive subtlety which she brings to each scene. When she is offscreen the film is dull with a cast of bungling secret agents, and empty talk about words, and silence, great Frenchmen, and patriotism. It is Karina's role as Veronica Dreyer, a Danish born Russian and secret member of the FLN, that truly makes the film political dynamite for bringing up the French occupation of Algeria and the torture of dissidents to the cause. She exclaims that maybe the French had a purpose with Germany in the second world war but not in Algeria and that they would lose. The film was banned for three years for bringing up this sensitive subject. Michel Subhor plays Bruno Forestier with force. He is tortured by Algerian revolutionaries but always manages to land on his feet. Godard's dialogue is pretentious and his opinions about single women who live alone being either call girls or informers are sprinkled throughout the film. Godard doesn't believe that women should be around after 25, they age too fast, and don't look as good as men when they're older. This is in the script. Veronica is an object of exchange for the amateur cops and spies and all of Godard's limited knowledge of women. Bruno Forestier's voice over carries the story but without Anna Karina this film would have been a sorry lot.

For movie Magazine this is Moira Sullivan, Paris France
More Information:
Le Petit Soldat
France - 1963