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It took four decades and the death of the author of the source material, but Jean-Luc Godard’s detective story Made in U.S.A.is at long last available for screening in the U.S.A. Not long after the film premiered at the 1967 New York Film Festival, Donald E. Westlake, author of The Jugger—which Godard adapted without ever securing the film rights—successfully blocked the film’s distribution until his death in 2008. Since Westlake’s death, this hardboiled enigma starring Anna Karina and Jean-Pierre Léaud has made its way around American cinemas in a restored print from Rialto Pictures. Opening at the new West End Cinema on Friday, Made in U.S.A will be the centerpiece of a trio of Godard features, playing alongside Nouvelle Vague mainstays Breathless and Contempt. Godard was on the cusp of his revolutionary period with Made in U.S.A. Though its plot, starring Karina as a Bogart-esque private eye à la The Big Sleep, is as tough to crack as Howard Hawks’ 1944 masterpiece, the younger Godard’s political leanings trickle out at a steady pace. Karina’s narration is full of anti-Gaullist sentiment speckled with a dose of mistrust in the burgeoning left. The film is purportedly set in Atlantic City—albeit a part of town that looks like a Parisian exurb populated by cops, thugs, and Marianne Faithfull. While Made in U.S.A. can be as maddeningly impenetrable as the works that inspired it, the film remains one of Godard’s finest. The camera, guided by the steady hand of cinematographer Raoul Coutard, mirrors Karina’s emotional claustrophobia with tight framing and unexpected cuts to one of the story’s several murder victims. Filled with artistic trademarks and fraught by ideological uncertainty, Made in U.S.A. is the product of a great filmmaker on the edge of his own upheaval.
THE FILM SCREENS AT 3:30 P.M. AND 7:30 P.M. FRIDAY, DEC. 10 TO THURSDAY, DEC. 16 AT THE WEST END CINEMA, 2301 M ST. NW. $10. (202) 419-3456.