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Monday, March 12, 2018

Masculin Feminin

I was looking through FilmStruck's archives for something to watch and noticed in the "about to leave" category were several of Jean-Luc Godard's films. I had been wanting to catch up with his films from the '60s, and here they all were, except for one (La Chinoise, which Netflix has). So forgive me, the next week will be all about Godard.

I start with 1966's Masculin Feminin. I saw this film back in college and remember it being bubbly and pleasant, two words you don't often associate with Godard. It stars Jean-Pierre Leaud as Paul, a 21-year-old who is both political and horny. He is in love with a singer (Chantal Goya), who is kind of vacuous, but because he, like everyone else around him, is inundated with commercialism (much of it American) he can't help himself. In a title card near the end of the film, Godard states that the movie could have been called "The Children of Marx and Coca-Cola."

Masculin Feminin (while of course that translates as "Masculine Feminine," I prefer to think of it as "Boys and Girls," which is nearer the mark) is made up of fifteen scenes. Paul talks with a friend at a cafe, he rides the subway (and sees racism in action), he watches Goya cutting a record, and in perhaps the most telling scene he interviews a young model who has been named "Miss 19." He asks her questions like "Does socialism have a future?" while she smiles vacantly.

The film was banned in France for those under 18, which Godard claimed was who the movie was for. I think it may be the best film about the '60s counterculture ever made, and doesn't have one set of beads or a fringed vest. It name drops some of the icons of that decade, such as The Beatles and Bob Dylan, and even has a cameo by Brigitte Bardot, but instead of exploring what those those people mean, they are just symbols. What seems true to life is that a young man is concerned about the war in Yemen but also about getting laid.

It has some typical Godard touches, such as the title cards, which contain phrases that sound profound: "The mole has no consciousness, but it burrows through the earth in a specific direction."


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