Le Petit Soldat (The Little Soldier)

Critics Consensus

No consensus yet.

80%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 15

73%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 2,593
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Movie Info

Le Petit Soldat (The Little Soldier), writer/director Jean-Luc Godard's second feature film, was made in 1960 but immediately banned in France due to its sensitive political content and did not premiere until 1963. Michel Subor (Beau Travail) stars as Bruno Forestier, an army deserter caught in the middle of a covert war between the French government and the Algerian Liberation Front in Geneva. With both sides resorting to any means to achieve their clandestine ends, Bruno must decide what he is willing to do to escape with Veronica (Anna Karina, star of Band of Outsiders and A Woman Is A Woman, in her enchanting debut) and lead a free life. Arguably an espionage riff on the filmmaker's own debut feature, Breathless, this is the film where Godard penned his signature statement: "Cinema is truth 24 frames a second." Also starring László Szabó

Cast

Michel Subor
as Bruno Forestier
Anna Karina
as Veronica Dreyer
Georges de Beauregard
as Activist Leader
Jean-Luc Godard
as Bystander at Railway Station
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Critic Reviews for Le Petit Soldat (The Little Soldier)

All Critics (15) | Top Critics (5)

  • Even this early in his career, Godard knew how to make audiences viscerally experience and contemplate things they might otherwise not have wanted to.

    Mar 5, 2013 | Rating: 5/5

    Keith Uhlich

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • It's a classic espionage plot shot through with a typically heady mix of art and literary references: Klee and Velázquez, Bach and Haydn, Bernanos and Musil.

    Mar 5, 2013 | Full Review…
  • Gradually it becomes clearer that, starting with Le Petit Soldat, Godard was forging his own individualistic art and becoming the most relevant director of our time.

    Apr 17, 2007 | Full Review…
  • ubor's contemplative voice-over and Raoul Coutard's somber cinematography make this seem severe compared to the jazzy exuberance of Breathless.

    Apr 17, 2007 | Full Review…
  • Looked at in the context of Godard's later, militant work, this film's analysis is at once naive and fascinating.

    Jun 24, 2006 | Full Review…
    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • In many ways, Jean-Luc Godard's Le Petit Soldat is equal to Breathless in its inventiveness and exuberance.

    Mar 4, 2013 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Le Petit Soldat (The Little Soldier)

  • Jul 21, 2014
    Filmed in 1960 but released until 1963, <i>Le Petit Soldat</i> is Godard's second feature film which sensitive political content caused the French censors to ban the film for three years. The incredible Nouvelle Vague was kicking off with a bang, and Godard is maybe the filmmaker that best envisioned the movement's eccentricities perfectly with a trademark style of his own since his debut. He didn't give birth to the movement, but he made a massive international contribution to a successful dissemination of its uniqueness. <i>Le Petit Soldat</i> is no exception. The film places a man against French involvement in the war in Algeria as a protagonist. He is given instructions to assassinate Polidova, who is pro-FLN (National Liberation Front of Algeria). He meets and falls in love, however, with a left-wing member of a terrorist group (which means meet the gorgeous Anna Karina in her first role with Godard!). Complications ensue when his constant hesitations and constant existential questionings prevent him from executing his job, rising suspicions that he might be a double agent. The film's graphic content is notorious for its time. Mainly, the film is claimed to have been banned because of depiction of torture by both sides, but theory suggests that the fact that the French side was condoning torture as a means to obtain information about activists and the conflict itself resulted in a politically inconvenient representation of the French nation (heh). In the meantime, Godard does not waste one of his hundreds of future opportunities to transform his protagonist into a reflection of the auteur himself, which results in an explosive diarrhea of art, music, philosophy, photography, cinema, urban life and politics, sometimes with contradictory, most of them interesting, some of them random or tedious, like if Godard only understood the authorts/artists in his own anarchic way instead of spotting out the points of disagreement. This is an early proof of him being a cinematic genius and an intellectual self-centered egotist. Extremely recommended because of its political statements and the notorious visual influences of the Nouvelle Vague, from Kitchen Sink Realism to Film Noir, this is an early effort that deserves attention, especially because of its censorship. Everything censored deserves attention as to the reasons behind. 84/100
    Edgar C Super Reviewer
  • Feb 09, 2010
    The title is misleading -- there are no true soldiers in this film, and no uniforms. This is a movie about urban terrorism, plotted by young men in suits and ties. The plot is not especially easy to follow, but the setting is the Algerian War. A French deserter lives in Geneva, and is pressured to commit an assassination. When he resists, the heat comes down on him from both sides of the conflict. Along the way, he becomes smitten with a girl portrayed by Anna Karina, and who could blame him? What's most impressive about "Le Petit Soldat" is not its story, but how much director Jean-Luc Godard achieved on such a low budget. Almost all the scenes appear to have been shot silently, with sound dubbed in later. Most of the camera work is handheld, and the narration carries a heavy burden of explaining the background details. Typically for Godard, the script includes an obsessive number of allusions to personal influences like Paul Klee and Carl Dreyer. There's also an extended monologue where the lead actor suddenly turns and begins speaking to the camera. A startling moment, created with some rather primitive tools. "Le Petit Soldat" was Godard's second film after the more celebrated "A Bout de Souffle," but was initially banned due to a controversial torture sequence (laughably tame, by today's standards) and some unflattering comments about French politics.
    Eric B Super Reviewer
  • Jan 28, 2009
    [font=Century Gothic]In "Le Petit Soldat," Bruno(Michel Subor) is an undercover antiterrorist agent in Geneva who works for the French Information Bureau and is tasked with an assassination. In the meantime, he is asked to photograph Veronica(Anna Karina) for some odd reason.[/font] [font=Century Gothic][/font] [font=Century Gothic]"Le Petit Soldat" is a political allegory about terrorism and graphically depicted torture that comes tantalizingly close to succeeding despite its very odd setting of Switzerland, a general lack of coherence and its polemical tone.(One shot features a woman reading from the works of Mao.) But then this would not be a Jean-Luc Godard film if he did not get distracted somewhere along the way which explains the photography session that is at least photographed nicely.[/font]
    Walter M Super Reviewer
  • Sep 15, 2008
    Beautiful and stunning.
    Liolia K Super Reviewer

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