|Chantal Goya plays ye-ye girl Madeline in Masculin feminin d. Jean-Luc Godard|
Masculin féminin (1966)
d. Jean-Luc Godard
Criterion Collection #308
Masculin féminin is close to what I thought I'd be watching when I decided to watch all the films in the Criterion Collection. Now that Godard's films have finally started popping up on the recommended list in Hulu Plus Criterion Collection channel, I'm finally actually watching Masculin féminin and some of the non-hits out of Godard's work. Masculin féminin finds Godard recently infatuated with Socialist/Maoist politics but still with a film style anchoring him in the narrative mainstream and lacking the experimental, shall we say... excesses; which characterize his mid period and later work.
The most unusual part of Masculin feminin is the casting of actor Jean-Pierre Leaud in the lead role, as the frustrated suitor of aspiring ye-ye girl Madeline (played by a darling Chantal Goya.) Leaud is best known as Antoine Doinel from Francois Truffaut's series "Adventures of Antoine Doinel," where he plays the Truffaut-like character is five films.
Seeing Leaud act the lead in a Godard film is intriguing- Godard's Paul is not Doinel, but he shares some "everyman" traits with the Doinel character. For example, like Doinel at the beginning of the adult films (400 Blows portrays Doinel as a child) Doinel is recently released from his Army service. Same for Paul. Unlike Doinel, Paul is avowedly political in his own diffident, uniquely French way. He scrawls anti-Vietnam graffiti on cars owned by the US embassy, in chalk on the door of theatre restroom after he sees two men in a same-sex embrace.
The glimpses you get of the ye-ye recording scene in Paris at the time of the film is of interest in its own right. At one point towards the end of Masculin feminin, Madeline and Paul are together in the recording studio as she attempts to record her second record. On the way out, she is interviewed by a member of the popular music press.
Of course, there are also more experimental/documentary style techniques employed, in particular interviews between male and female characters, echoing the title of the film and perhaps creating a kind of duality that was central to Godard's concerns in making this particular film.