Way back in 1963, the great French director Jean-Luc Godard showed us where many of today’s “yellow vest” protesters come from, the country outposts of the French landscape, some, like the Stan and Laurel-like brothers, Ulysses (Marino Masé) and Michel-Ange (Patrice Moullet)—about as far away as you can get from the great voyager and the talented artist—living, as these two do, in a ramshackle hut with their equally ill-named wives, Venus and Cleopatra (Genevieve Gaela and Catherine Ribero), hometown beauties who are left behind. These poor idiots haven’t even been to Paris.
The war or, I should say, wars that follow represent a trek through Europe, the mid-east, the far-east and even the US that might suggest any imaginable battle that existed in the 20th century. And their adventures, other than their occasional participation in precisely those activities they were promised—plundering, raping, torturing, and creating general mayhem—is structured around postcards which they send home featuring the sites (among them the pyramids, the Parthenon, and the Leaning Tower of Pisa) along with their impressions of their adventures. Indeed, these wide-eyed innocents might almost be perceived to have become true adventurers and artists in their discovery and evident enjoyment of the world they finally get an opportunity to encounter.
Alas, as Godard makes in this black comedy clear, all good things must come to an end. As soldiers for the losing King, Ulysses and Michel-Ange are now traitors, and new carabiniers suddenly appear upon the landscape, this time stand them up against the wall to shoot them as participants on the wrong side of the previous wars. As the director makes clear, there are never any winners in warfare, socially nor as survivors in real-life. Through the voice of his narrator Godard reiterates who these innocent fools they have been all along: “Henceforth the two brothers slept for an eternity, believing the brain, in decay, functioned beyond death, and its dreams are what constitute Paradise.”