Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Masculine-Feminine (Masculin-Feminin) (1966)

Masculin Féminin
Jean-Luc Godard again again…

If you have been following my posts you probably know what is coming and, yeah, we are going down that lane again.

“Masculin Féminin” is not plot driven (no surprise there), instead we a following a young man called Paul (Jean-Pierre Léaud) as he encounters people in Paris. Paul meets his friend Robert (Michel Debord) who is politically active on the extreme left, which seems to match Paul’s political leaning. He then proceeds to meet Madeleine (Chantal Goya), an aspiring singer, and her friends Catherine (Catherine-Isabelle Duport) and Elisabeth (Marlène Jobert). He moves in with them and they go out together. Meanwhile Paul interviews a number of women about all sorts of things.

That sound harmless enough, if a bit boring. What is special here is 1) that Paul is a jerk and 2) that all dialogue is terribly artificial in the shape of proclamations or interviews.

The second item was apparently a deliberate decision by Godard, though I do not understand why, except to create an alienation between the characters, but the sad result is that they mostly sound like idiots.

The former is even more mystifying. Paul shouts at people and picks up arguments where none is needed. He seems restless and takes action and offense of anything. I would suggest that he reduce his caffeine intake, but it is probably not as simple as that. Considering how he is treating Madeleine and her friends it is surprising that she does not kick him out. Seriously he is behaving like an asshole.

So, what we have here is on the one hand a very real looking movie in documentary style following trivial lives, but also a high degree of surreal artifice where people behave and speak weirdly and not just Paul but random people he meets will put themselves on fire or stab themselves and all Paul think of is the revolution against the establishment he seems to be planning.

It is an idea that could be interesting but in the hands of Godard, good ideas are wasted. Nothing new here. I never felt that this movie was trying to tell me something, at least something I would be marginally interested in, yet it seemed so intend on telling that story that the rest was unimportant.

What I did like was all the pictures of life in Paris in the mid-sixties. Peel away the surreal elements and there is a lot to look at.

Conclusively I probably liked this movie a little better than the typical Godard movie, but there is a long way from there and up to actually liking a movie. And there are more Godards to come. Somebody should send a letter to the List editors…


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