Is Made in U.S.A. Jean-Luc Godard's riposte toBonnie and Clyde? Reportedly, Godard briefly flirted with the idea of directing the epochal Arthur Penn masterpiece in the mid-1960 s after Francoi Truffaut passed on it. (One of the reasons producer-star Warren Beatty opted not to pursue Godard's vision was because the Breathless auteur wanted to shoot in New Jersey instead of in the rural south, where the story occurred.)
Made in U.S.A. premiered at the 1967 New York Film Festival, a month after Bonnie and Clyde opened — but it has been notoriously difficult to see in the intervening decades. It wasn't until micro-distributor Rialto Pictures stepped forward earlier this year that the movie had a proper stateside release. Was it worth the wait? That depends on how you feel about Godard. Only someone as polymorphously perverse as Godard would dare shoot a film set in Atlantic City in France. But geographical disorientation is the least of the movie's concerns.
By 1967, Godard had all but abandoned the pretense of telling a story, so the pleasures to be gleaned here — and they're considerable — largely consist of cataloguing Godardian motifs and savoring privileged moments. Accordingly, former Godard muse/wife Anna Karina strikes lots of pretty attitudinal poses, Jean-Pierre Léaud makes the occasional appearance (mostly to get slapped around by a variety of tough guys), and the homages to American pop culture — the movie is dedicated to "Sam [Fuller] and Nicholas [Ray] who taught me about film and sound" — zip by fast and furiously.
While hardly a Godard masterpiece, Made in U.S.A. looks like one. For anyone with an affinity or affection for late '60s Godard (Weekend, Masculine Feminine, et al.), it's unquestionably the film event of the season.