Godard. While there are many directors that have shocked audiences few have had the overall effect and lasting appeal of Jean-Luc Godard. A former film reviewer who along with fellow critic turned director Francois Truffaut created the New Wave style of filmmaking, Godard*s resume of films continue to influence and inspire filmmakers. While not as critically regarded as some of his other work Godard*s recently rereleased 1966 film “Masculine, Feminine” is an important addition to his overall filmography.
“Breathless” may have been the work that placed Godard on the map but it is in his subsequent work that he grew all the more daring. His reworking of crime films, (“Band of Outsiders”, “Pierre Le Fou”) science fiction (“Alphaville”) and gender politics (“My Life to Live”) gave Godard a sizeable critical and commercial following. Following these classic films “Masculine, Feminine” could be viewed as Godard*s reaction to his own success and the state of the world around him.
While on the surface the film deals with the romance between free spirit Paul (Jean-Pierre Leaud) and Madeline (Chantal Goya) the film*s true concerns rest in the agenda of the counter culture. Paul, having served time in the military is disgusted with the commercialism around him and searches for love. He turns his attention to aspiring singer Madeline who could care less about the revolution as long as her recond sells. A telling dialogue near the beginning of the film shows that when answering the question “What is the center of your world?” Paul answers love while Madeline answers herself.
There are many instances of Godard being self-referential towards his own work showing that he has become part of the same pop culture that he is struggling to break from. Mimicking his earlier film “My Life to Live” there is not set plot, instead Godard shows us unconnected vignettes between Paul, Madeline and their friends. Paul*s behavior often resembled the loveable loser Michel (Jean-Paul Belmondo ) from “Breathless”. At one point the characters even reference Godard*s previous film “Pierre Le Fou”.The film self-referentially shows Paul as the ideal follower of Godard (he loves movies and embraces being a free spirit) yet despite his best intentions can do little more than complain to friends and scribble anti-war messages on walls.
However, unlike his previous films this one tends to ramble more than the others. The repetitive dialogues do little to advance the themes present and sometimes wear out their welcome. These occasional lulls are dwarfed with moments of inspired brilliance such as a argument in a restaurant where Paul and Madeline are eating erupting into violence and an awkward trip to the movies.
“Masculine, Feminine” may not equal some of Godard*s prior films but while it does revisit many of his usual themes it is noteworthy for being an intriguing dissection of where he, himself, fits into the picture.