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Masculin Féminin [VHS]
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Director Jean-Luc Godard's seventh feature is a study of mid-1960s French youth. Paul (Jean-Pierre Léaud) is a young man fresh from military service who falls for aspiring pop star Madeleine (Chantal Goya), who gets him a job on the magazine where she works. But he soon becomes more interested in his left wing activities and his relationship with his two female flatmates (Marlene Jobert and Catherine-Isabelle Duport) than Madeleine. Watch out for a brief appearance by Brigitte Bardot.
Juxtaposing images of pristine, romantic innocence with ones of mute, meaningless violence, Godard's Masculin-Féminin first lulls with a hypnotic, disjointed story line and then stuns with scenes of tremendous depth and meaning. This outrageous film follows the somewhat ineffectual courtship of Madeline, an aspiring pop singer, by Paul, an erstwhile journalist and interviewer but mostly groundless searcher. As in most Godard films, plot mechanics are secondary to elements such as dialogue (generally marvellous, but sometimes a bit too pointed), lighting (bizarre and over-saturated, but nevertheless than fascinating), shot framing (extraordinarily thoughtful), and performance. Godard allows his camera to linger on single faces, without cutting, for what seems by modern standards to be extremely long segments--perhaps even excruciatingly long--but the remarkably subtle cast members never disappoint, particularly the fantastically adept and frequently hilarious lead actors, Jean-Pierre Léaud and Chantal Goya. The filmmaker has little to add to our collective understanding of the relationship between masculin et féminin writ large; in fact, most of the female characters are uncomfortably stereotypical, framed as either wilfully oblivious to the world or subtly (or overtly) deadly. But as an examination of a young generation faced with the prospect of war in Vietnam and the vagaries of French socialism, Masculin-Féminin proves remorselessly and chillingly trenchant. A towering influence, it would seem, on Whit Stillman's similarly themed Barcelona--but while Stillman lacks the conviction to follow his instincts to their logical, violent conclusions, Godard faces his uncompromising story with elegance and courage. --Miles Bethany, Amazon.com
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5 March 2001
Format: VHS Tape
An excellent example of the talent and inventiveness of French-Swiss genius Jean Luc Godard, this movie is situated on the transition period between his first works, the emotional period and his second works, the "Maoist years". The film shows the disorientation of the french youth, which before May of 68 didn't know what stance to take, having grown up with both American culture and left wing ideals. This insecurity is reflected in the couple played by Jean Pierre Leaud and Chantal Goya, unable to have a clear relationship for fear of compromise, both politically and sentimentally. The unique skill of Godard as director and creator is seen in his use of music, in the long sequences shot in one take, the innovative camera movements (some of the last that he made in years), the division of the plot in chapters indicated by intertitles, etc... Perhaps not best movie to start with Godard, but the fans and those already familiar with his work will find here some of his best ideas within that period.
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