Cartoonish and action-packed, Machete belongs to a different world than the contemporary political film. It contains no rich psychology, no subtlety, no complex logic, historical detail or rational explanation of realpolitik. Rather, it points to an earlier moment when it was taken for granted that genre film was political to the bone, reflecting the subjectivity, anger and tastes of a radicalized proletarian sensibility.
Jean-Luc Godard’s 1980 film Sauve Qui Peut (La Vie), known in the US as Everyman for Himself and in the UK as Slow Motion (on account of its most conspicuous special effect), has just finished a welcome revival at Film Forum. Often hailed as Godard’s “second first film,” a moniker that originated with Godard himself, on balance the film both fits and eludes this definition. What is not in question is that the film marked Godard’s return to the European film industry, and it was his first film to have a theatrical run in the US since Tout Va Bien in 1971. He has been working steadily, if not as prolifically as in his unsurpassed first decade, ever since: promoting his work at the usual festivals, granting interviews, and doing his best to remain the enfant terrible of the cinema with his generally oracular persona. While even by Hollywood’s low standards the last thirty years have marked a coarsening of movies (with the rise of the Spielberg “Blockbuster” as an emblem for this trend in Godard’s own view), Godard’s work has become more difficult, relentlessly so in some cases (see King Lear), to the point where critical opinion, noblesse oblige aside, is thoroughly divided between enthusiasm and bewilderment, to say nothing of the experience of the casual viewer or even the fan of Godard’s earlier work.