Review by Ed Nguyen
Chantal Goya, Jean-Pierre Léaud, Marlène Jobert, Catherine-Isabelle Duport,
Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Audio: French 1.0
Video: Black & white, 1.33:1 full-screen
Features: Interviews, trailers, television footage, booklet
Length: 105 minutes
Release Date: September 20, 2005
you kill a man, you're a murderer. If
you kill millions
of men, you're a conqueror. If you
kill them all, you're God."
don't believe in God."
the French New Wave directors, Jean-Luc Godard was undoubtedly the most radical
and liberal. His early films were
commercial successes which cantered to mass appeal while simultaneously
circumventing cinematic conventions and experimenting with new approaches to
sound, editing, and montage. His
later films, however, displayed a gradual shift towards more
politically-oriented, even Marxist, tendencies.
Those films espoused Godard's own growing dissatisfaction with the
political arena of the day
film masculin féminin: 15 faits précis
(1966) represents a turning point in Godard's career. It is a film which intertwined the pop sensibilities of
Godard's earlier films with the socialist leanings of Godard's later works.
At the film's heart is a romance between Paul (Jean-Pierre Léaud), a
disillusioned quasi-intellectual, and Madeleine (Chantal Goya), an aspiring
young pop singer. They are, as the
film famously pronounces, "the children of Marx and Coca-Cola," and as
such masculin féminin reflects the
clash between the era's political upheavals and protests with the sexual
exploration of the youth movement of the 1960's.
of New Wave cinema will recognize Jean-Pierre Léaud instantly as the young star
of François Truffaut's seminal series of films about Antoine Doinel, a
fictional character who was rebellious, anti-authoritarian, and somewhat of a
trouble-maker. As he grew up before
the camera, Léaud in many ways came to resemble his screen alter-ego (and vice
of 1960's Euro-pop may recognize Chantal Goya, too, as a pretty model who became
a successful yé-yé singer in real
life. In fact, three of her hit
songs ("Laisse-moi," "Sois gentil," and Si tu gagnes au
flipper") can be heard on the soundtrack for masculin féminin. The yé-yé
phenomenon was a musical trend which started in France in the 1960's and
celebrated the youthful image of teeny-boppers cooing bouncy songs of innocent
love and romance. The yé-yé
singers were the Britney Spears and Mandy Moores of their day.
Famous yé-yé singers included
Françoise Hardy and Nana Mouskouri. By comparison, while Chantal Goya was only merely average
vocally, her wonderful charm and bubbly-cute public persona more than made up
for whatever musical deficiencies she possessed. In fact, long after the 1960's, Goya remained very popular,
crafting a highly successful musical career in France singing Disney tunes and
Léaud and Chantal Goya thus represented ideal young actors for masculin
féminin. They embodied the
very characteristics of the unlikely lovers, with Paul's liberal and
revolutionary spirit caught in Madeleine's world of consumerism and capitalism. The dichotomy between Paul and Madeleine, with their
oil-and-water, "beauty and the beast" mentality, merely accentuated
the film's frequently coy spin on relationship issues and dilemmas.
masculin féminin is loosely arranged
as fifteen short vignettes presaging the frustration and disenchantment of the
upcoming youth movement and hippie culture.
The film's structure, or what passes for one, is very open-ended and
follows Paul and Madeleine from their first conversation in a small diner
through an awkward but amusing courtship to the couple's final abrupt parting.
the film, youth is used as a conduit for the suppressed emotions of society.
The characters are able to question themselves about relationships and
sexuality in a blunt or narcissistic manner that might otherwise be suppressed
in polite gatherings. Sudden
flashes of violence - a gunshot, a knife-stabbing, a suicide or two - frequently
interject themselves into the narrative, even during quieter moments, suggesting
the incongruities and paradoxes of life's strong emotions.
of sexuality and freedom of expression during the 1960's did not always
translate into an appreciation of how best to act upon this "free
love." The young adults of masculin
féminin are liberated but not entirely certain how to act upon their inner
stirrings. In the film, Paul adores
Madeleine, who at times seems to prefer her own roommate Elisabeth (Marlène
Jobert). Madeleine's friend
Catherine (Catherine-Isabelle Duport) secretly fancies Paul, while Paul's chum
Robert (Michel Debord) openly desires Catherine.
Within this entangled web of flirtations, even passer-bys and background
characters are glimpsed in moments of passion - a lovers' quarrel, a clandestine
affair, an "arrangement" with a prostitute.
to classify masculin féminin as a
sexual romp is entirely false. The
film deals more with ideas and the verbal expression of internal feelings, not
physical acts. Nevertheless, masculin
féminin was perhaps too ahead of its time to be fully appreciated during
its initial release. In fact, its
psychosexual tension and frank discussions (none of which would merit more than
a PG rating today) were considered shocking enough at the time that youngsters
under seventeen were barred from the film, despite the fact that masculin
féminin spoke directly to them and not to the older audiences actually
allowed to attend screenings. Moral
values have certainly changed since then, with masculin féminin being supplanted now by such key generational
watermarks as Larry Clark's disturbing Kids
or, on a more philosophical level, Richard Linklater's Slacker.
masculin féminin is considered one of
Godard's finer efforts, a snapshot of a cultural phenomenon on the cusp of
bursting into the mainstream. The
film captures the ambiguity of youth, the often awkward or self-conscious
efforts of maturing teens to emulate their elders or to express themselves
adequately. Godard's masculin
féminin probably marks one of the final commercial endeavors by the
idiosyncratic director, who by the late 1960's was more interested in
disassociating himself from the adoration of the public spotlight for newer
films of revolutionary and political nature.
As such, masculin féminin
should be enjoyed for what it is - an early curtain call and minor masterpiece
of the mainstream from one of the French New Wave's more eclectic directors.
masculin féminin is presented in a
new, high-definition digital transfer made from a 35mm fine-grain master.
The process was supervised by Willy Kurant, the film's cinematographer.
The picture quality is fairly good, although the film stock possesses a
degree of noticeable grain and the details are occasionally (if intentionally)
washed-out in certain scenes. The
picture appears relatively clean of defects or speckles.
On an interesting note, the film was framed in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio,
highly unusual for any theatrical release after the 1950's (and the popularity
an audio standpoint, masculin féminin
may be unlike any other film that most audiences are likely to have experienced.
Filled with spontaneous bursts of noise, intervals of utter silence
punctuated by gunshots, masculin féminin has a vibrant sound quality that is at times
jarring and at times authentic, an aural equivalent of cinéma vérité. Much
of the sound is direct sound, hence we
have the blare of car horns, the chatter of passing pedestrians, and even the
drowning-out of the actors' dialogue. Godard
freely cuts sound out altogether at times (the silent lapses therefore do not
represent an error during the mastering process) only to interject sound in
DVD's appearance is rather cool, with artwork designed to make the disc resemble
a spinning 45 rpm single. Most of
the bonus features on the disc are comprised of revealing interviews, old and
new, and should only be viewed after first watching masculin féminin.
up is an archival interview (5 min.) from 1966 with actress Chantal Goya.
This interview was filmed for Au-delà
de l'écran, a French television program.
Goya describes her early pop music career as a yé-yé
singer, how she was first drawn to a career in acting, and reactions by her fans
(and her parents) to her acting debut. Overall,
Goya is just too adorable in this short clip!
is also a new interview (10 min.) with Chantal Goya. She discusses Godard's directorial style and elaborates upon
her own experiences on masculin féminin.
There are also photographs documenting Goya's subsequent career as a
popular children's singer.
new interviews include one with cinematographer Willy Kurant (12 min.) and
another with Jean-Pierre Gorin (15 min.). Kurant
talks about his career in cinematography and how he first met Godard.
Concerning masculin féminin, Kurant describes the film's lighting, the stock
used, and Godard's directorial methods. Gorin
had collaborated on many Godard films and in his interview offers his own
interpretation of what Godard was trying to achieve with masculin
final interview (25 min.), the most enjoyable featurette on the disc, is a very
animated discussion about the film between film scholars Freddy Buache and
Dominique Païni. Both scholars
place masculin féminin within its
sociological and cultural context while gyrating their hands and gesturing madly
to drive home their comments. It's
quite amusing to watch. Furthermore
both scholars are honest in revealing their initial dislike of Godard's
progressive film, opinions which have transformed into great admiration in the
masculin féminin was a Swedish
co-production, there was international interest in the film during its
production, as seen in some Swedish television footage (4 min.) of Godard
working on a scene from the film. Godard
is seen directing masculin féminin's
film-within-a-film sequence, apparently a parody of Ingmar Bergman's own The
on the disc are a couple of trailers for masculin
féminin. One is the original
trailer and the other is for the 2005 Rialto Pictures re-release.
has included a 16-page booklet with a pair of essays. The first essay, "The Young Man for All Times" by
film critic Adrian Martin, highlights the film's influential role in French pop
culture of the time. Certain themes
and characteristics about this remarkable film are also discussed.
The second essay, "On the Set of masculin
féminin" by French journalist Philippe Labro, is a reprint of an
article originally written for the magazine Le
nouveau Candide on January 17, 1966. The
article was written during the film's original production and captures Godard's
improvisational style and his ideas for scenes in the film (before he had
actually written or photographed them).
TRIVIA: Watch closely and you might
spot popular yé-yé singer Françoise
Hardy in a quick cameo! Brigitte
Bardot also has a cameo appearance but is quite easy to recognize.