Masculin Feminin (1966)

by | Dec 3, 2005 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

Masculin Feminin (1966)

Starring:  Chantal Goya, Jean-Pierre Leaud
Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Studio:  Criterion Collection
Video:  1.33:1 Full Frame, B&W
Audio:  PCM French Mono
Extras:  Theatrical Trailer; Re-release Trailer; Interview with
Chantal Goya in 1966 (5 min); Interview with Chantal Goya in 2005(15
min); Willy Kurant Interview (12 min); Interview with John-Pierre Gorin
(15 min); Freddy Buache and Dominique Paini Film Commentary (25 min);
Swedish Footage of Godard Directing “Film Within the Film” Scene (4
min); 16 Page Booklet with Essay by Film Critic Adrian Martin
Length:  105 minutes
Rating:  ***1/2

The time is 1965, the place is Paris, and the director is Jean-Luc
Godard.  Masculin Feminin is not a film in the typical sense, but
an extension of Godard’s ideas about the reality of the youth scene at
the time—their thoughts, their concerns, their freedom, and the
combination of their innocence and the leap into the beginnings of the
sexual revolution.  Child star of the French New Wave, Jean-Pierre
Leaud, leads the cast including pop-star Chantal Goya and Marlene
Jobert in a journey into the world of the children of Marx and
Coca-Cola.  His character, Paul, is a bit awkward and quirky, but
falls for the adorable Madeleine.  He has no problem telling her
that he approves of her breasts, but at the same is afraid of their
intimacy.  In the film his supposed occupation is that of a
pollster asking questions of the others to discover what makes them
tick.  There is a blurring between characters in the film and
Godard’s inquisition into the minds of the actors.

Black and white is par for the course as are violent odd scenes that
are completely incongruous with the rest of the film.  Most of the
actors are not actors, and much of the film has a raw spontaneous
quality to it.  The film is a combination of fiction and
documentary film.  The characters arrive at common locales and
interact as they might–unfettered by the camera.  These natural
surroundings and impromptu conversation lend a reality to the
proceedings.  But when the acting is stiff and the director moves
the course of the scene to interview or interrogation the viewer is
conscious of this.  The entire movie was composed in Godard’s head
and would prompt actors to ask questions and be themselves.  He
would direct the cinematographer for odd framing, moving (shaky) camera
in a cinema verite style to create a more natural setting.  The
characters go to cafes, movies, play records, dance, fall in love, and
are naïve about politics and much that is going on in the adult world.

Titles are utilized like chapters in a book and may even offer
commentary on the action. Masculin Feminin is a period film made in the
period, yet offering a glimpse of the future of youth. The story is
told without judgment and this may disturb some viewers; especially in
the final tragic ending of the film. Madeleine’s character wastes no
time graphically suggesting a solution to her predicament.  The
film offers a commentary on the pervasive nature of capitalism and
consumerism and in many ways is a precursor to and predicts specific
behaviors that will be common in the future.  Like the repeated
gunshots and the carefree attitude of the characters as they watch an
erotic film, the viewer can appreciate the style and content of the
film as unique and important. 

-Brian Bloom

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