May 6th: Masculin, féminin
I’ve seen this Godard film many times – probably more than any of his others – but I think I am just now beginning to understand it. My problem, initially, was that I took the characters too seriously. That seems to be a result of my age, which I shared with Leaud and Goya on my initial viewings. They seemed to me, at the time, to be serious youth, interested in politics and sex and what it means to their generation specifically. I don’t think I was wrong in the interpretations of their psyches, but I was totally wrong as far as character interpretation goes.
I kept trying to come up with a political/social message to the film that must be embodied in such random, banal scenes. But I think Jean-Pierre Gorin has a good point (on the Criterion DVD) when he says that the film is sans judgement (see what I did there? I used the French! Clever me!) – that there isn’t a political message Godard is trying to get across, but that the film acts as an almost cinema-vérité representation of youth. This is the French generation just coming of age after the Algiers war and before May ’68, who has to decide how they are going to be defined. And it seems like commercialism (pop music, coca-cola, cars, etc) is going to be a large contributor.
Gorin also points out Godard’s desire to create an essay, much like Montaigne, who uses quotes every few sentences and then tries to dissect them. Which, I think, is a great way to look at all the references in Masculin, féminin to popular culture. Godard doesn’t seem to be trying to tie them all into a general argument, rather just point them out and make a case of his own, visually, that contradicts/supports the reference.
I think the best part of the film is how annoying, but also romantic, young people can be. They act as conduits of bigger, more important ideas, but, in the end, they seem mostly interested in sex and rock and roll. It seems like their desires (for violence or sex or other more carnal things) force them into the positions they will stand by as they grow older. Madeline is flippant about her pregnancy throughout the film until the end, when she’s forced to make a decision, and that realization (coming in the last frame of the film) seems like it will move her into adulthood, defining who she is. All of the kids in the movie try to make conscious efforts to define themselves, but it is this accident that forces her to finally take things seriously.
I’m still thinking about this one. I’m sure it will take many more viewings – like all Godard movies. Exhausting – to finally “get it.”