It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
"Le Petit Soldat" was Jean-Luc Godard's second film, made in 1960 when "Breathless" was creating a sensation and the French New Wave made the cover of Time. It wasn't much of a success. Godard, it was said, had lost the light touch of his first film and gotten bogged down in politics. And his shooting and writing styles, alas, bordered on anarchy.
So "The Little Soldier" was dismissed by the critics, who were busy doing cartwheels for Truffaut's "Jules and Jim" and Resnais' "Hiroshima, Mon Amour." And Godard began a period of four years in which his films, one after another, were criticized for not fulfilling the promise of "Breathless."
But "Breathless" seems a little dated in 1969. We are no longer quite that interested in a facile, flashy editing style; Godard himself has educated us out of that infatuation. A decade later, "Breathless" is a period piece, the "The Maltese Falcon" of the 1950s. And 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.
Part of that relevance involves Godard's politics. Although "Le Petit Soldat" was attacked as "too political," it is refreshingly undoctrinaire in 1969 while "Hiroshima, Mon Amour" collapses into what Pauline Kael calls liberal soap opera. Godard, in 1960, making a film about the Algerian War, was portraying the sort of intellectual and moral confusion that good men have when they confront senseless events. And the 1960s have been full of them.