Masculin Feminin

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After the film’s initial release, Godard stated in an interview that he saw his film not as one strictly about youth but “more a film about the idea of youth. A philosophical idea, but not a practical one—a way of reacting to things. It’s not a dissertation on youth or even an analysis. Let’s say that it speaks of youth but it’s a piece of music, a ‘concerto youth’” (Godard). Masculin, Féminin is a film that definitely puts the ‘children of Marx and Coca-Cola’ on display in their own element. The story follows Paul, played by Jean-Pierre Leaud, as he passively-aggressively pursues an up-and-coming pop singer, Madeleine, played by real-life singer Chantal Goya. Throughout the narrative, Paul is forced to overcome ‘obstacles’ on his way to Madeleine’s heart…and legs.

Sex is the major premise behind the film. As the story unfolds, the plot is filled with numerous notable instances of sexual activity in the film. In the beginning of the film, Paul and his friend both brush against a woman’s breasts after asking her for some sugar. From this point on, the sexuality of the film only becomes more vulgar with each minute. There are scenes in which a group of nude women is talking about sex in a locker room, Paul and Madeleine play the name game for penis and vagina one night in bed, and Paul even walks in on a homosexuality act involving two men in a public bathroom. However, there is one scene in particular sums up the entire message of the film.

As a polltaker, Paul interviews a young woman who is not only a friend of Madeleine’s but also who was chosen as ‘Miss 19.’ During this interview, Paul asks her various questions ranging from the advantages and disadvantages of being ‘Miss 19’ and the current state of birth control in France. The conversation also includes her thoughts, rather the lack thereof, on other issues such as the pop music, the Vietnam War and socialism. This is not the only mention of these issues in the film. Through dialogue and encounters between various characters, Godard brings attention to these important issues of the time. Madeleine’s occupation as a singer brings many allusions to the American music scene at the time with references to The Beatles and Bob Dylan. Ironically enough, both of which became musical legends in their own right.

He also makes no effort to hide his dislike of the American involvement in the Vietnam War using Paul as his spokesman. “Paul is anti-bourgeois and resents America's involvement in Vietnam, but his gripes aren't anti-American per se. Godard considers pop culture a dangerous American export and he questions the political apathy of images and music that don't incite people to revolution” (Gonzalez). While waiting outside of a hospital housing many American soldiers, Paul creates a diversion that allows an American military car to become vandalized with “Peace in Vietnam.” He even yells, “US go home” to the soldier who was riding in the car. Godard also makes it known that he does not want American pop culture to infiltrate French society by allowing trivial things to create big problems. Not only does a guy who is extra serious about his pinball game almost kill Paul, but the lifestyle that Madeleine lives due to her occupation also bothers Paul throughout the film even to the point where an argument indirectly causes his death.


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