Masculin Feminin Reviews
Innovative in both style and form, Godard's film captures sexualised 60s youth with unabashed audacity, offering a viewing experience equally sexy and sincere as it is funny and freewheeling.
The great New Wave director is often credited for developments in shot technique, but Masculin Feminin is so much more: it's shot technique, sound technique, storytelling technique and, above all else, style technique, all in sumptuous harmony. Godard's influence has been rippling its way through not just cinema, but through all popular culture ever since.
Godard's attitudes have, of course, dated over the course of a half-century - but the way he expresses them, the way he captures 1960s youth, have not. To be a successful Godard film is certainly not an easy thing. A director who can hardly suppress his love for bizarre sound manipulations ("Masculin Féminin" itself is often soundtracked by a single, cartoonish gun shot that seemingly comes out of nowhere) and teleprompter-ready intellectual speak, it doesn't take much for a Godard film to go from zero to insufferably pretentious miles-per-hour in an instant.
But most of the time, Godard keeps the politically/intellectually minded atmosphere humorous and engaging, even if you can't quite put your finger on why watching Jean-Pierre Léaud dive into a radically liberal speech is entrancing. The kiddos of "Masculin Féminin", all in their late-teens/early 20s, spend most of their time smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee in stylish cafés around the city, delighting each other in their oh-so-adult conversations and escaping in movies they know they're smarter than. All attractive, all high in their hopes, all avant-garde, they regard sex as a breezy pastime, responsibilities as a chore they can save for later. They act worldly, name-dropping Sartre whenever the time comes, but heaven knows they would be much more content swimming in each other's cerebral coolness than actually do something with their lives. Leading lady Chantal Goya, who portrays the ambitious Madeline Zimmer, wants to become a yé-yé singer - but does she know that Sylvie Vartan and Françoise Hardy were one-in-a-million chanteuses hard to recreate?
"Masculin Féminin" is about everything while also being about nothing. It covers just about every topic found in the mind of a '60s dwelling youth, but it knows that these are just fleeting thoughts, especially when considering most of the stuff happening internationally is the responsibility of the leader of the free world (whoever that is, a character might accidentally grunt). A café is perched just a block down the street and, last time I checked, I wasn't the leader of the free world.
The film doesn't take itself seriously, and its actors are likable; New Wave staple Léaud is always so fascinating to watch (don't ask me why), and Goya, looking like a typical Anna Karina-type, enchants with her childlike smile and jet-black, Anna Wintour reminiscent bob. "Masculin Féminin" is Godard at his most focused, his most audience oriented - it is a pleasure from start to finish, even if we don't quite have a grip on what we just watched.
You know, I say this a lot, but this film really captures the zeitgeist. This is France in 1965, the youth, the feeling...the closest thing to being there.
And, of course, being Godard in his prime, it's wildly creative, topical, witty and whimsical. Un charme.