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 Réguliers", 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.



June's the month of graduations. Yesterday I went to see my little brother, all grown up and looking mighty dashing in his suit, receive his high school diploma. And tonight, I went to see three graduation films from the Dutch Film and Television Academy in Amsterdam.

The first, "Bomber", was set in a near-future dystopic version of the Netherlands and revolved around a group of graffiti-spraying friends who don't quite know how to deal with the war. Is merely making impressive "pieces" enough if their efforts are so easily effaced by a waterhose? I liked the atmosphere - quite similar to fellow angry-young-people-in-the-suburbs film "La Haine"-, the moment where they erupt in (rap) song is well done, and the ending took me by surprise, but unfortunately the main character lost his believability as soon as he opened his mouth, and the dialogue was far from stellar.

Then came the film my dad and I really came to see, "Gödel", about the eponymous mathematician. It didn't disappoint. You could say it's about the last period of his life, when he was so paranoid he was starving himself to death, but that would be an incomplete statement. It's also about the distinction between reality and delusion, about where the film ends and the filmmaking begins. Gödel changes his mind about which part of what he sees is real, which part is not, the set collapses around in and at some point the director comes in to discuss with two critics what the ending should be. It's too pretentious by half, artificial and even glib, but you know me, I rather enjoy pretentious and glib (see also: my idolatry of Dave Eggers), and despite all the gimmicry, the film ends on a perfect note.

Finally, the third film, and unfortunately by far the least interesting of the three. The title (translated by yours truly) is "Daddy is gone...and I still had something to ask", and the documentary is precisly what you'd expect from such title, except maybe twice as long. There is really nothing remotely original or even simply visually inventive about this one. I'll admit part of my disinterest might come from my general feeling of "meh" when it comes to ego-documents, but really. Compare this for example to "Four Eyed Monsters", a recent debut film that's still available in its entirety on youtube. It's also an ego-document, but it's embellished by so many visual flourishes, so many little details that surprise you, that's it's interesting much beyond its cliched quirky boy-meets-girl story. This film however apparently thought an opening and closing shot of an ant hill and some jumping back and forth in time would be enough to make the story interesting. Unfortunately, it is not, especially not when every fact and feeling is rehashed at least twice.

All-in-all, it was a wondeful to celebrate that...my summer break has started! I did my last exam today, and I could not feel more relieved, despite, as expected, failing one course. I met my dad in Amsterdam, we had some ridiculously overpriced but delicious sushi and went to these movies, with one of the most generous audiences I've even seen a movie with. Afterwards we walked to the station, over the wallen (we saw a "de majoor is thuis" banner), saw an amazing double rainbow, and well, these are all irrelevant details but it comes down to: I had a great time, and I can already feel myself relaxing. You can expect a definite uptick in posting frequency from now on!