In general I don’t like Jean-Luc Godard’s films, yet there’s always something in them that I do like, something that intrigues.
Masculin Féminin lacks the typical plotline. It’s a series of sequences punctuated by unexplained gunshots. The characters are young adults, 20ish I’d guess, out of college and finding their next step. It’s that tough time when you’re out on your own and unclear about how to proceed.
Jean-Pierre Léaud (best known for 400 Blows) plays Paul, the kind of lost guy Léaud plays. Paul is an activist, who likes to spray paint his views on Vietnam on cars and walls. He’s in search of love, but awkward and unsure as he pursues Madeleine, a cute singer he meets in a café. Madeleine is also naive and unsure about Paul or love in general. Her main interest is the release of her new record.
The best part of the film is the dialog between Paul and his hooligan pal, Madeline and her friends as they answer questions about sexuality, love and the issues of the late 1960s. Godard presents these kids as the generation that embraces Coca-Cola and Marxism.
The Criterion Collection DVD has some good supplements including two interviews with Chantal Goya, who played Madeleine, one from 1966 and the other from 2005.
The film has stuck with me for its look at the innocence of young people who were experiencing a changing society and the film’s abrupt ending. I like how different it felt but also found it very unsettling. Major events aren’t shown or predictable in the least.