Masculin Feminin

This is certainly a milestone in my cinematic education: my very first Godard. I checked. In my defence, his films are not easy to get a hold of, and they're not exactly the kind of films often shown on Dutch television. So when I saw that Masculin Feminin was on sale for a mere ten euros, I decided to ignore my resolution not to buy any more DVD's until I'd seen all those I already have, and gave myself a holiday present. (actually, two: they had Drugstore Cowboy for 6 euro. Who could resist?)

All this, of course, to build up anticipation for the crucial question: what did I think?

Aside from how refreshingly bizarre and unpredictable I found it, I'm not quite sure yet. There's simply too much to it, I think, to absorb in just one sitting, and I mean that as a good thing. It's a portrait of an age and of a generation, but I'm not sure what exactly it says about that age, that generation. There's affection in how Godard portrays his protagonist, Paul, but also some detachment, a certain sense of mockery too.

I love how Godard frames his images. It's as if he sometimes felt he was being too precise, too preditable, and decided to just shift the image a little to the left or right, leaving someone's face cut in half, another oddly centered. I love the playing with sound too: phasing in, phasing out, fitting with the images or not at all.

During the conversation Paul has with Mlle 19 ans, my father said the film was not that much different from the third one we saw yesterday, and I bristled, because to me, it couldn't have been more different. Ego-documents, after all, are made by people who think their own lives are the most fascinating thing there is, and Masculin Feminin is all about putting this shameless self-display under scrutiny.

Paul is also someone who -perhaps like most 21 year olds at some time or another- thinks his ideas are revolutionary, that he will re-invent the world single-handedly, that he alone is "pure" in his quest for the truth, for philosophy, for enlightenment. And in the interview scene, not only is it shown how terribly naive and silly Mlle 19 ans is, but also how silly and naive Paul is for feeling so superior to her.

Maybe that's the overwhelming theme, in the end, the arrogance of youth. But this seems too harsh: Godard never passes judgment, he just observes his characters, shows them to us without any apparent slant, and lets us be the judge. "The children of Marx and Coca-Cola" is right: they are communist, idealistic, paint "Paix au Vietnam" on an American embassy car, but in the end, they drink the Kool-aid, or well, the Coke.

I realise this post in incoherent, but in some sense it is appropriate with such an incoherent film: it's not just the jumping back and forth in both image in sound: a man gets shot, without apparent consequence, a man stabs himself and it's neither a joke nor something particularly meaningful: it just happens.

The end could be tragic, but due to what came before, it just is, random and slightly sad, but not very significant.

After watching this film, I finally understand where "Les Amants RĂ©guliers", Philippe Garrel's 2005 film, comes from. It takes place only a few years after this one, and the plot is, in essence, similar, but the almost 40 years in between make a world of difference: the fun is gone. While Godard doesn't romanticise, you can tell he enjoys spending time with these people, and that he understands the fun inherent in being young. Garrel's film was a reaction to the nostalgia of Bertolluci's "the Dreamers", but he might have gone too far in the other direction: too disillusioned, perhaps, by how little has changed despite all the upheaval of the sixties.

I have to admit I have a strange sort of longing for the summer of '68. Is it possible to be homesick for somewhere you've only heard of? Fourty years since the summer of love and it seems the world hasn't changed that much since the fifties, except for technological advances which seem almost superficial. But I suppose as long as there's 21-year-olds in the world, we should be alright.

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