So, I said previously that Jean-Luc Godard has a fascination with the art of the conversation, or simply the action of two or more people talking with each other. Did I say fascination? Sorry, my fault; I should have actually used the word fetish. The final film in my Godard-a-thon, and the apparent culmination of Godard’s love of the spoken word, Masculine-Feminin is a film that contains absolutely nothing but conversations and interview pieces. Why this is a must see, I have no idea, but I will give it this: it is certainly a one-of-a-kind experience, simply because there isn’t any other film that would dare to be so blasé in its presentation and its content.
Again, like Pierrot le Fou, the plot is there solely to hold up what Godard is really trying to get across. The plot itself has a young man, played by Jean-Pierre Leaud, meeting a young woman, played by Chantal Goya, and, despite (or maybe because of) their differences, they begin a relationship, which soon begins to take its toll on both of them, for varying reasons. Here, Godard mixes his experimental style, in a much more refined form than I have seen it before, with his various conversations. The audio will occasionally drop out and leave nothing but staticky silence, the film often cuts to random super-imposed words and phrases on the screen, the editing sometimes gets real choppy, and imperfect. It wasn’t deliberately annoying as it was in Alphaville, but neither did it feel necessary. As for the film’s actual content, a lot of it seemed highly relevant to 1960s French culture and politics, so it might need some adjustment on your part to really feel in tune with the film’s statements.
What bothered me the most about the film, this time around, wasn’t the lack of substance or focus on the dialogue over plot, or even the New Wave philosophies that give the film its so-called experimental style. It was the fact that, try as I must to hold this film aloft on a pedestal for some, any, reason, the film itself just wasn’t very well made at all. I know I have a tendency to get hung up (or exuberant) about the technicals, but after going through film school, I have a certain amount of standards that a film just needs to get right, the rudimentary basics of physically making and putting together a film that you really need to perfect before you should be allowed to go all… well, Godard on a film. I didn’t see that with Masculine-Feminine. I saw a lot of cheap production value, and a lot of cut corners; the film just seemed to be desperately trying to get its content on celluloid lest someone catch them in the act and make them stop before they’ve finished. It resulted in… not a shoddy product, but a hurried one, one that missed a few sessions of proofreading or polishing before being sent out into the world. Shame, too; this sort of a film, given the right context, and more professionally put through the paces of filmmaking to come out shiny and smooth on the other end, would truly have been a landmark in French cinema. It probably still is, to some extent, but to me, it wasn’t the universal watershed moment of French cinema that I was expecting it to be.
Arbitrary Rating: 6/10