Monday, June 10, 2013

Masculin Feminin

Based on Guy de Maupassant’s short stories The Signal and Paul’s Mistress, Masculin Feminin is the story about a young romantic idealist who chases after a budding pop star as he later gets involved in a complex relationship with two other women. Written for the screen and directed by Jean-Luc Godard, the film is look into the world of love during a tumultuous period in France where two people fall in love despite their different views on art and politics. Starring Jean-Pierre Leaud, Chantal Goya, Marlene Jobert, and Michel Debord. Masculin Feminin is a ravishing yet witty film from Jean-Luc Godard.

The film revolves around a man named Paul (Jean-Pierre Leaud) who meets and falls for a budding pop singer named Madeleine Zimmer (Chantal Goya) where they have a relationship during a period in France where Socialist activities and protest against America’s involvement with the Vietnam War comes into play. Paul would meet Madeleine’s roommates in the frigid Elisabeth (Marlene Jobert) and the more innocent Catherine-Isabelle (Catherine-Isabelle Duport) as the latter is courted by Paul’s friend Robert (Michel Debord) where they all go through many moments in the relationship as Paul deals with Madeleine’s burgeoning career as well as their differences.

Jean-Luc Godard’s screenplay plays up the idea of romance and sex during this period in France where the world is changing as Paul is a fan of classic music while Madeleine is more in tune with the pop music of the times. Yet, the two are fascinated by each other’s differences though it would eventually become too great for them to bear. While Paul would also connect with the more low-key yet observant Elisabeth and the more accessible Catherine-Isabelle, it has him going into a journey about his ideas of love. Madeleine would also go through a similar journey as she is unsure about the idea of sex as well as the use of obscene language where she tries to comprehend the idea of what it means to be a woman.

Godard’s direction definitely stylish as he aims for a very loose and free-wielding style that harkens to the idea of cinema verite. Shooting on location in various places in Paris as well as the streets where it is capturing a moment in time in which the French are going through these social changes. While it’s a film told in fifteen chapters, Godard places inter-titles in between the chapters filled with comments on the film and what was happening at the time as well as moments where Godard even makes comments about what the film is really about. Notably as there’s also a lot of cultural references ranging to ideas of Communism, Bob Dylan, and Charles de Gaulle to establish the tone of the times.

There’s also a film-within-a-film that is shown where the characters are watching it where Paul and Madeleine would have a different reaction about what they’re seeing. Even as it would play a key moment into the issues where Paul and Madeleine would have their relationship be played out in long takes where Godard just has the camera capturing every moment without needing to cut. Overall, Godard crafts a very mesmerizing yet provocative film about love and identity.

Cinematographer Willy Kurant does excellent work with the film‘s black-and-white photography to capture the vibrancy of Paris as well some of the places and movie theaters the characters go to. Editor Agnes Guillemot does fantastic work with the editing with the use of jump-cuts to create a sense of rhythm in the conversations as well in the moments of action. The sound work of Rene Levert is brilliant for not just the use of sound on location but also for moments where there no sounds to not reveal anything that is being heard. The film’s music by Jean-Jacques Debout is amazing for the pop songs that Chantal Goya sings to reflect not just the ideas of love but also serve as a disconnect in the realities of what is happening in France at the time.

The film’s cast is wonderful as it features cameo appearances from French pop singer Francoise Hardy as a woman accompanied by an American soldier and Brigitte Bardot as herself in a café scene. Other small appearances include Eva-Britt Strandberg and Birger Malmsten as actors appearing in the film that Paul and the women watch. Michel Debord is very good as Paul’s friend Robert who is fascinated by Paul’s new friends as he tries to court the very innocent Catherine-Isabelle who is coy with him. Catherine-Isabelle Duport is excellent as the innocent yet observant Catherine-Isabelle as a young woman who might be carrying feelings for Paul though she remains cagey about what she thinks. Marlene Jobert is terrific as Elisabeth as a woman who isn’t so keen on Paul yet is aware of the troubles he and Madeleine are having as she tries to help Paul deal with his situation.

Chantal Goya is amazing as Madeleine who is this budding pop singer that is hoping to make it in the world of pop music as she’s intrigued by Paul only to be unsure about her identity as a modern woman. Finally, there’s Jean-Pierre Leaud in a remarkable performance as Paul as a man that has this idea of love and sex while not in touch with the current trends of the time like pop music as he falls for Madeleine. The two together have a superb chemistry together to display their differences and their ideas about love and sex.

Masculin Feminin is a phenomenal film from Jean-Luc Godard. Armed with a great cast and a fun soundtrack, the film is definitely one of quintessential films of the French New Wave as well as one of Godard’s intriguing films during that beloved period from the 1960s. It’s also a film that explores the world of male and female identities as well as the idea of love in the 1960s. In the end, Masculin Feminin is a spectacular film from Jean-Luc Godard.

Jean-Luc Godard Films: All the Boys Are Called Patrick - Charlotte et son Jules - Breathless - The Little Soldier - A Woman is a Woman - My Life to Live - The Carabineers - Contempt - Band of Outsiders - A Married Woman - Alphaville - Pierrot Le Fou - Made in U.S.A. - Two or Three Things I Know About Her - La Chinoise - Weekend - One Plus One (Sympathy for the Devil) - (Joy of Learning) - (British Sounds) - Tout va Bien - (Letter to Jane) - (One A.M.) - (Number Two) - (Here and Elsewhere) - (Every Man for Himself) - (Passion) - (First Name: Carmen) - Hail, Mary - (Soft and Hard) - (Detective) - (King Lear (1987 film)) - (Keep Your Right Up) - (Nouvelle Vague) - (Allemagne 90 neuf zero) - (JLG/JLG - Self-Portrait in December) - For Ever Mozart - (Historie(s) de Cinema) - (In Praise of Love) - (Notre musique) - (Film Socialisme) - (Adieu au Language) - (The Image Book)

© thevoid99 2013

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