The ring leaders of the useful idiots are well read and familiar with the theory of their cause to a fault but if they happen to lack a certain level of life experience, as your average college students invariably do, they can easily become useful idiots too. Jean-luc Godard’s La Chinoise “satirically” traverses this hierarchical tree of manipulation and unwitting errancy, then finds itself as a sophisticated but quintessential example of the same.
Ideologically that is. Cinematically, Godard’s genius is without question and this is no exception. The message he wants to portray is clear (if you can keep up with his style of intellectual Blitzkrieg) and delivered with artistic magnificence, but that message is ideologically errant nonetheless.
What La Chinoise starkly shows, you will find, is the cinematic vision of Chinese Socialism in direct conflict with American Imperialism. In other words one great stupidity against another, supporters of either side now leaving the conversation to seek refuge in the brainwashing of their respective governmental overlords. The film, as crafted by a cinematic master, can itself be a tool for brainwashing if the viewer is either susceptible to the ideas already or otherwise young and highly intelligent yet spiritually weak or vulnerable.
Chinese readers: it takes a defector to know a brainwashed sheep. The only difference between Chinese and American brainwashing is that the former is more sophisticated and in the early stages of its lifecycle whereas America is closer to the dissolution stage. What can perhaps be applauded is the strategy and patience to implement a worldview now over 70 years in the making, a strategy which La Chinoise certainly appreciates.
In a manner similar to the infamous Mao Zedong himself, La Chinoise is meticulous and, if nothing else, prescient. It more or less predicted (if not inspired) the May 68 civil unrest in France and, with artistic license, is the cinematic prelude (albeit in French) to China’s rise on the world stage. The tragedy is that this rise comes with the heavy baggage of socialism instead of something uniquely Chinese (socialism with Chinese characteristics is still just socialism). Again, this rise to world prominence which was only a vague glimmer of potential in the 60s is also hinted at in the film but from the perspective of the deadbeat socialist protagonists.
Know thine enemy, lest you underestimate them. Right wingers, being generally lost in blind nationalistic pride, often struggle to find the balance between outright fear of socialist ideals and laughing real socialists off as idiots without a thought. Socialism is a complete worldview, if one based on cyclical materialism and ultimately nihilism.
Socialism might pretend to own the definition of “revolution,” but only with those who have drunk the kool-aid. And so Godard opens his “Maoist” phase of what the film itself calls “Socialist Art,” a phase which was (with a few notable exceptions) the lowpoint of his career. La Chinoise is somewhere in the middle, that is to say bourgeois, not in ideal but in quality, which to Godard as the father of the French New Wave should be the ultimate insult especially as everything that usually makes a Godard film sublime is here to be found, but buried beneath a mountain of socialist propaganda.