When you want to learn a thing or two about Jean-Luc Godard, you turn to New Yorker film critic Richard Brody. I do, anyway, since the man wrote the book on Godard: namely, Everything is Cinema: The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard. He followed up our post on Godard’s film of Jefferson Airplane’s 1968 rooftop concert with a tweet linking us to a clip from Godard’s feature Made in U.S.A.
That film came out in 1966, two years before the immortal Airplane show but well into Godard’s first major burst of daring creativity, which began with 1959’s Breathless and lasted at least until Sympathy for the Devil, his 1968 documentary on — or, anyway, including — the Rolling Stones. Brody pointed specifically to the clip above, a brief scene where Marianne Faithfull sings “As Tears Go By,” a hit, in separate recordings, for both Faithfull and the Stones.
Brody notes how these two minutes of a cappella performance from the 19-year-old Faithfull depict the “styles of the day.” For a long time since that day, alas, we American filmgoers hadn’t had a chance to fully experience Made in U.S.A. Godard based its script on Donald E. Westlake’s novel The Jugger but never bothered to secure adaptation rights, and the film drifted in legal limbo until 2009. But today, with that red tape cut, crisp new prints circulate freely around the United States. Keep an eye on your local revival house’s listings so you won’t miss your chance to witness Faithfull’s café performance, and other such Godardian moments, in their theatrical glory. The cinephilically intrepid Brody, of course, found a way to see it, after a fashion, nearly thirty years before its legitimate American release: “The Mudd Club (the White Street night spot and music venue) got hold of a 16-mm. print and showed it — with the projector in the room — to a crowd of heavy smokers. It was like watching a movie outdoors in London by night, or as if through the shrouding mists of time.”