Politics, especially left-wing politics that the filmmaker believes in, are hard to insert into a film without seeming to be dogmatic. It can be done well, but most of the time, the viewer feels like something is actively being shoved down their throat. (for example: Michael Moore’s more ineffective documentaries.) It also tends to date a film substantially. When Godard made this film, he was on the cusp of becoming a radical political activist. His later films will delve into politics even more than his earlier films. He was formulating what he wanted to say with his camera, while still making references to films past like he had done in his previous films. The result is an interesting and captivating mess.
To be honest, I did not catch the political references in the film at all. It wasn’t until I watched the supplements on the Criterion Collection version DVD, that I understood what he was referring to. At some points in the film, he just rattles off names. These names are names of past political heroes of France and past French political villains. It took me out of the film, because Godard just assumed that the audience would know what and who he is referring to. He also puts in gobs of references to hard-boiled films of the classic Hollywood era. I felt like those were also inserted in order to prove how clever Godard is. Yes Godard you are very clever and you have seen a lot of films, we get, just please get on with the close-ups of Anna Karina.
Man, are there a lot of close-ups of Anna Karina. This is where the film works is when Anna is talking and trying to make sense of the situation in front of her. She is in control of her destiny, even if her destiny is decidedly unclear. In fact the audience really has no idea what is going on during most of the film. We don’t know who is against Anna and who is with her, we sometimes don’t even know why they are in the picture at all.
This film seems to be a slight reworking of Alphaville with the woman as a protagonist as opposed to a male. Both protagonists want to know who is killing who and why for political and personal reasons. Each one can be considered a thriller, but only slightly. However where Alphaville is really satisfying, Made in the U.S. A. is not.
By the sound of my review, I seem to hate this film as much as I hated Masculin Feminin. That is not true. I liked the performance of Anna Karina as a heartless amateur investigator. I liked the cinematography and its use of bright primary colors. I like the scene in the bar where a semiotic debate breaks out with characters you never see again. I like the playing with guns and I like most of the dialogue. I think that this film is worth a watch, it just does not seem like it is one of the major Godard films. This film is more of an experiment more than a complete filmic experience.