Jean-Luc Godard

“Masculin Feminin,” a 1966 film directed by Jean-Luc Godard, plays around with the documentary style so much that I find it surprising that the film does not seem like a documentary at all.  Godard films young people in long static shots answering questions about sex, Marxism, whether they believe in God, and their dreams.  We only learn about their families if they talk about them, and the instability and new ideas prevalent in mid-sixties France seem to isolate them in a world they are desperately trying to make their own.

Godard wanted to explore the effects of the current issues — racism, war, labor unrest — on the “Pepsi Generation.”  He does this so brilliantly by having the main character, ex-serviceman Paul — played by Jean-Pierre Leaud — express his cynicism with his aimless obsession to question the ideas of his friends.  They suffer his efforts because they sincerely want to help his journalistic career.  But the doomed Paul walks out of step with this new world, and he is compelled to repeat his actions until the end comes.

At one point, a man walks into a cafe to ask directions.  Paul, overhearing this, asks the same man the same directions, as if trying out a role in the new world.  We sense that acting like an adjusted individual would only seem strange to him.  His girlfriend, a successful singer, and her friend, the reigning “Miss 19,” figure out how to be successful by ignoring the world’s problems.  Paul gets himself a girlfriend because he expresses himself to her so openly.   We don’t know, but possibly he gets her pregnant.  That turns out to be his only success amidst the turmoil of this period in France.

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