Yesterday I continued my seemingly unending Jean-Luc Godard kick by watching Masculin Feminin. This is a DVD that I just purchased on a whim with a Borders gift card. It had recieved worth enough mention in the Godard biography I am reading. I guess I am fortunate, after purchasing it sight unseen, that I liked it as much as I did.
This is one of Godard's more well known films. At one point in the film there comes a flash on the screen saying "This film might be called the Children of Marx and Coca-Cola." In the Rialto Pictures trailer of the film we are told its about "Youth, Paris, and Sex!" But it is difficult to really tell someone what the exact plot of this film is. You have 4 main characters, and one all seem to love one of the others, who loves one of the others instead. Following? Good. This is all set against the backdrop of Paris in the 1960's in the time of the Vietnam War.
Jean-Pierre Leaud, best known for his role of Antoine Doinel in the Truffaut films plays the staring role of Paul aside Chantal Goya playing Madeline. Paul's love of Madeline seems to be on the surface a shallow love. None of the characters seem to have anything more than a surface love for one another really. They just happen to bounce between cafes and the streets of Paris. We gather that Paul works as a pollster for some anonymous company. Throughout the movie we see that he obviously just uses the poll questions as a chance to meet attractive girls and attempt to pick them up. He is very much against the Vietnam War, he is for socialism. Though his love of Madeline seems to be shallow he is also a hopeless romantic.
Some have said that this was almost an anthropological film for Godard, just an examination of the youth of Paris in the 1960's. It is fair to say it doesn't really have much of a storyline, if any. You just witness the youths musings on sex, politics, love, etc. You are then also witness to a bizzare disregard for violence in the movie. A person is shot outside a cafe, a man stabs himself outside an arcade, and nobody does more than bats an aye. Sounds of gunfire come before screens which announce another part (of 15) in the film, and announce what Godard called "facts." He likens the philospher to the filmaker in one of these screens. In another is the famous "Children of Marx and Coca-Cola" slogan.
This is the kind of film I see myself giving many repeated viewings. Certain scenes are so playful that you can't help but smile through them. Since the film doesn't have fully distinct plot, you can even almost view it as 15 shorts if you wanted too. That may be unfair, though. Godard definately had a vision when making this film to capture the youth of Paris in the 1960's. It isn't my place having been born well after that time to say if he suceeded, but at the least he has made quite an enjoyable and probably important film. IIf you rent the Criterion Collection version of this be sure to watch the discussion of the film with two French critics contained in the extras, which gives farb more insight that I even imagine to here.