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Made in U.S.A., based on The Jugger by Richard Stark (AKA Donald Westlake)Movie:

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Depiction of Parker:

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Parker’s name in film: Paula Nelson

Played by: Anna Karina

I confess that my exposure to Jean-Luc Godard’s films is rather limited, so I may not be the ideal candidate to review his movies. Having said that, let me state that Made in U.S.A. is boring and incomprehensible with little to recommend it except for some interesting visuals.

Let me now add that the following is from the perspective of a fan of the novels (you are at a fan site, after all), but, honestly, had I never read book one and stumbled onto this thing, it wouldn’t have made a difference. The movie is terrible.

Made in U.S.A. is so loosely based on The Jugger, one wonders why they didn’t change a couple of plot elements and present it as a totally original work. The only real similarities to the novel are the opening scene and a scene near the end. The opening scene has the Parker character, Paula Nelson, approached by Typhus (Tiftus in the book) because Typhus thinks she knows something that she does not in fact know. Paula (I can’t bring myself to call her Parker) decks him on the head and moves him back into his own room. The scene near the end utilizes the same exchange of confession letters device that was used in the novel. A visit to the doctor that declared heart failure the cause of death and the death of Typhus are the only other similarities, and those are done very differently than in the book.

Paula is not a thief, she is a reporter. She is investigating the death of Richard, an ex-lover, whom she suspects was murdered for political reasons. She gets captured a couple of times, makes alliances, roughs up a few people, and finally the movie ends. The movie is so completely tied to the 1960s French political situation that Americans like myself are likely to find it completely incomprehensible. Although nominally a mystery, the mystery isn’t the point, so mystery fans are unlikely to find it interesting as the film drums up no suspense whatsoever, instead preferring self-indulgent artiness that might have seemed cool in 1967 when it was novel but now simply seems insufferably pretentious. Why, for example, does Marianne Faithfull keep cropping up, singing “As Tears Go By” a cappella? Why do characters keep turning to directly address the camera and then narrate their conversation? Why do we have to keep watching shots being fired into the word “Liberté”? What on earth is the point?

A course in the politics of 1960s France might have somewhat improved my appreciation of the film, but I doubt it.

A downloadable guide to the literary, cinematic, and political references in Made in U.S.A.

Image Gallery for Made in U.S.A.

To The Jugger