A small-time thief steals a car and impulsively murders a motorcycle policeman. Wanted by the authorities, he reunites with a hip American journalism student and attempts to persuade her to run away with him to Italy.
Paul is young, just demobbed from national service in the French Army, and disillusioned with civilian life. As his girlfriend builds herself a career as a pop singer, Paul becomes more isolated from his friends and peers ('the children of Marx and Coca Cola', as the credits announce) and their social and emotional politics.Written by
Possible Spoliers: Though not Godard's best, Masculin, feminin is in many ways the prototypical Godard film, exhibiting as it does both his characteristic virtues and characteristic vices. The plot is simple and barley manages to hold the film together; a young man (Paul) conducts a shapeless relationship with a singer (Madeline), works on a cigarette trick, engages in politically oriented graffiti, wrestles with only moderate energy with his own political views, watches two strangers get killed and takes scant notice, etc. Friends and acquaintances of the pair drift in and out of the film, to no great effect.
The film, like most Godard films, should be dreadful, and to many it will appear to be just that. But it manages to develop a rhythm, largely thanks to interesting editing choices, and keeps the viewer interested, if not exactly riveted. One hangs on with a Godard film in an attempt to discern the pattern at work-there seems to be no organizing principle as such, nothing particular the filmmaker wishes to communicate, but one senses a method, or a semblance of one, to Godard's madness.
Nearly 40 years on, Masculin, feminin appears very much a product of its time, though not without some claim to universality. References to the Vietnam War and to De Gaulle along with detailed, and dreary, political texts read aloud by the actors, do date the film somewhat, and yet a good deal of ground is covered; love and sex, birth control, women's rights, democracy and liberty, France vs. America, Bob Dylan, the Final Solution, German war guilt, union agitation, random violence, vanity, pornography. Trouble is, neither the characters nor the film reaches any particular conclusions about any of these things; many of them are mentioned in passing-themes stillborn. But perhaps that's part of the point. Godard seems to be acting almost like a
documentarian-at this point in time these kinds of things were discussed, but desultorily, as a part of the process of living, but not as its whole. Will this interest you, the putative viewer? Who knows. In my opinion, this is hardly a great film. Scenes drag on and lead nowhere; dramatic events happen but have no bearing on the rest of the film and thus we are not inclined to care; the sound of gunfire and titles break the film into chapters for no justifiable reason; Godard appears as confused as his protagonists as to the value of art, politics, and action. Still, the film has a wholly original texture, and that cannot be faked.
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