Masulin féminin, 1966
Dir: Jean-Luc Godard
September 25, 2009
Despite the title-cards and the "Godardian" (you know what I mean by now) dialogue, this film really captured the essence of being a young adult. While it is a sort of zeitgeist of 60s France and basically portrays both women and men as generally seen in narrow stereotypes, it seems very reflective of that time of life.
New Wave icon Jean-Pierre Leaud stars as Paul, a young journalist with socialist leanings trying to nail pop singer Madeleine (real life pop-singer Chantal Goya). Ostensibly plot-less, Godard uses Leaud as his own personal mouthpiece, setting up situations in which the dialogue between characters works more like impersonal interviews, subjects ranging on everything from politics and Vietnam to birth control and abortion, often shooting takes of excruciating length for realistic effect. There is a sense of detachment and lack of emotions amongst these young people that really sinks in. Paul doesn't quite know what to do with himself and neither does anyone else or if they do it seems to be some sort of distraction from reality, despite the big ideas they throw around or pretend to be interested in. People do not fully express themselves to one another, shown particularly between Paul and Madeleine, especially when he is at his most passionate to her, but it is only by making a record for her, and not face to face.
This film seems to be almost completely opposite in mood to any other Godard film I've seen, and it left me kind of confused and cold. Even so, after watching it 2 days ago, I've been thinking about it much more than any other Godard film I've seen. It has a lot of the hallmarks of a typical Godard film - jump cuts, romance, wordplay, but somehow, none of it comes across as playful at all. I would say Masculin feminin documents a generation of wandering and directionless boys and girls, which you see everyday, you meet at parties, and even see in yourself. The treatment of the characters alone is confusing enough to make me want to watch it again. I'm not going to write any more, because I'm really on the fence about this film and I'm not really quite sure what else I could say about it now, but it definitely struck a chord with me, and the change in tone leads me to believe that the fun and games is over for Godard.