Blog Directory CineVerse: A revolutionary wannabe making a movie in his own mind

A revolutionary wannabe making a movie in his own mind

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Jean-Luc Godard's "Masculin Feminin" can be a puzzlingly complex and frustrating watch for American viewers 50-plus years removed from the French New Wave style of filmmaking, which this movie firmly embraces. But if you try to put yourself in the shoes of the French youth culture in the throes of the sexual revolution and politically turbulent times of the 1960s, this picture may make more sense. Here are the conclusions we drew after watching and discussing this movie:

The fleeting and fickle nature of youth and young adulthood, as well as the vibrancy and energy of youth culture
The schism and battle between the sexes and who each gender has difficulty understanding the other
Conversations as a form of courtship and foreplay, with males trying more aggressively to “penetrate” into a female’s space and females parrying, deflecting and playing a little harder to get.
Trying to make sense of a politically volatile and rapidly changing world in the form of a simple romantic story imbued with sexual politics.
The changing nature of sexual politics and assumptions of gender power: Stephanie Zacharek of Salon wrote: “on the surface it seems Godard is asking us to join in ridiculing (Catherine), (but) in the end it’s Paul’s vulnerability and naiveté that are exposed. In another scene, Paul looks on with feigned indifference as Catherine plays with a toy guillotine, lopping the head off a tiny man with blasé amusement — you couldn’t ask for a more blatant metaphor for the skewed balance of sexual power between men and women.
“The Children of Marx and Coca Cola.” Pauline Kael wrote: “The theme is the fresh beauty of youth amidst the flimsiness of Pop culture and Pop politics. The boy is full of doubts and questions, but a Pop revolutionary; the girl is a yé-yé singer making her way.”
The allure and danger of pop culture and consumerism: “Godard considers pop culture a dangerous American export and he questions the political apathy of images and music that don't incite people to revolution,” wrote Ed Gonzales of Slant Magazine.
o Madeleine is associated with this pop culture/consumerism, while Paul is a stand-in for the communist-leaning/revolution-inspiring director; yet, “she is less a slave to her pop-cultural consciousness than Paul is to his communist agenda. Godard understands that music…implies Madeleine's freedom of expression, but this is an implication that Paul fails to gauge. Is it possible that Godard recognizes a little bit of himself in Paul, a man whose active proletariat consciousness gets in way of his having fun?" Gonzales noted.
Roger Ebert said the joke at the center of this movie “is that its young French characters were fascinated by America, and its young American audiences were fascinated by them.”
This film is essentially a time capsule movie that reflects the spirit of the times: the fast and freewheeling 1960s; consider how sexually candid the men and women speak and how this depicts a flashpoint in quickly changing sexual politics.
Life as a movie – Paul talks about how the movies he and his girlfriend went to were getting old and predictable, much as life gets stale sometimes.
o It feels like a zeitgeist movie of its times that is fresh, spontaneous and unscripted; in fact, Godard lacked a shooting script and turned to a handwritten notebook he wrote ideas in.
o It employs non-linear style of storytelling, unconventional editing techniques, and a non-traditional sound design, all hallmarks of the French New Wave.
o It looks and feels natural and realistic, shot in documentary-like fashion with diegetic light and sound, talking about real people and events of the era. The movie employs long, extended takes and plays out like a series of interviews between a man and a woman.
o Separated into 15 chapters, it can look and feel fragmented and constructed of loosely interconnected vignettes.
o Paul is an unreliable narrator, in that we see him witness multiple acts of random and sudden violence that don’t seem to have much effect on him – as if suggesting that this wannabe revolutionary is fantasizing about the violence that accompanies political upheaval and revolution; it’s doubtful that these shootings and stabbings he observes are literally happening. It’s more plausible to think that he’s imagining them, just as it’s possible that he doesn’t die by the end of the film, but is simply imagining how the women in his life would react to news of his death. Consider what he hears when he walks into his girlfriend’s recording studio – Madeleine is supposed to be an up-and-coming international pop singing sensation, but in the studio she doesn’t sound like a very good singer, suggesting that this is a subjective observation from Paul’s point of view and an indication that he’s unhappy with her fascination with pop culture and commercialism.
Band of Outsiders
A Married Woman
Sympathy for the Devil
Made in U.S.A.

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