Iskra. И́скра. Spark. Good film criticism requires a spark…something which separates it from run-of-the-mill recounting. Our society is so impoverished. Apparently Wikipedia didn’t put any of its recent fundraising money towards their article on The Caribineers [sic]. Nay, I had to stray to the rival IMDb to find what I was looking for. I know how Wiki works (more or less). People contribute information, at various levels of veracity and artfulness, to topical articles about which they feel at least an interest if not an expertise. Perhaps IMDb works the same way. I’m not sure. One thing is sure in my book: Wikipedia is the more powerful tool and, just as importantly, it is artfully austere–the Bauhaus of digi-pedias. IMDb is not lacking in breadth (as concerns film), but it is clunky and feels like a really shitty version of amazon.com.
Business. Amazon has owned IMDb since 1998. I’ve gotten some great stuff from Amazon…some of it at a good price. But Wikipedia does has a different feel, and for that it is to be commended. It is the utopia ideal at work. And that tangent brings me to the name.
Odile Geoffroy. IMDb claims she was in Vivre sa vie as well as Les Carabiniers. Perhaps. It appears to have been quite a small role. I do not recall it. But at least IMDb (Amazon) gave me her name. The same cannot be said for the woeful, woeful Wikipedia article titled The Caribineers.
Why Ms. Geoffroy? Because her part in Les Carabiniers is anything but trivial. Iskra. Spark. Из искры возгорится пламя. From a spark a fire will flare up. Yes, the brutes of Les Carabiniers really have a tough time offing Ms. Geoffrey’s character…even with a white handkerchief over her perfect, blond visage. It’s the only way. Her beauty is too strong for the base, lecherous soldiers tasked with shutting her up. And then she begins to speak…
Yes, she has a mind. She is not a mindless Venus–nor a venal Cleopatra. But they shoot her anyway. In fact, it takes a magazine full of bullets to finally keep her synapses from firing; her limbs from moving.
And so we have another political film from Jean-Luc Godard. Again, like Le Petit soldat which preceded it by release but not creation, the political slant is not really towards a particular faction (as far as I can tell). In other words, the Marxist-Leninist spark is just that: a quick, tentative reference to something which was perhaps still taking hold in Godard’s mind.
What we do get is an anti-war film along the lines of Renoir’s La Grand illusion, but with the gritty realism of Rossellini’s first post-war films. Roberto’s spirit is inextricably woven into the fabric of Les Carabiniers. Albert Juross portrays the idiocy of war as well as Catharine Ribeiro portrays the pretty spoils of mo-bil-i-za-tion. The latter (Ribeiro) would enjoy a long career as an iconoclastic singer. Which brings up another point:
where was Anna Karina? Belmondo? It might have seemed at the time that the Karina-Godard synergy had abated. Nothing could have been further from the truth of what followed. Some of her best starring turns for Godard lay ahead of her, but this strange film served as a bit of punctuation for Godard…almost a continuance of Le Petit soldat. It bears mentioning that of his first five features, only Une Femme est une femme had been in color. This from the auteur who was to yet shortly give the world Pierrot le Fou and Le Mépris.
Les Carabiniers is really rather a dense film to dissect. I think Pauline Kael and Susan Sontag would be aghast at having been cited on such a paltry Wikipedia article as The Caribineers. It is to Godard’s credit that this seldom-mentioned classic from his oeuvre poses a problem in breadth for being even beyond the scope of a time-on-my-hands blogger like me.