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Masculin Feminin (The Criterion Collection) (Bilingual)
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Juxtaposing images of pristine, romantic innocence with ones of mute, meaningless violence, Godard's Masculin-Féminin first lulls with a hypnotic, disjointed story line and then stuns with scenes of tremendous depth and meaning. This outrageous film follows the somewhat ineffectual courtship of Madeline, an aspiring pop singer, by Paul, an erstwhile journalist and interviewer but mostly groundless searcher. As in most Godard films, plot mechanics are secondary to elements such as dialog (generally marvelous, but sometimes a bit too pointed), lighting (bizarre and oversaturated, but never less than fascinating), shot framing (extraordinarily thoughtful), and performance. Godard allows his camera to linger on single faces, without cutting, for what seems by modern standards to be extremely long segments--perhaps even excruciatingly long--but the remarkably subtle cast members never disappoint, particularly the fantastically adept and frequently hilarious lead actors, Jean-Pierre Léaud and Chantal Goya. The filmmaker has little to add to our collective understanding of the relationship between masculine et feminine writ large; in fact, most of the female characters are uncomfortably stereotypical, framed as either willfully oblivious to the world or subtly (or overtly) deadly. But as an examination of a young generation faced with the prospect of war in Vietnam and the vagaries of French socialism, Masculin-Féminin proves remorselessly and chillingly trenchant. A towering influence, it would seem, on Whit Stillman's similarly themed Barcelona--but while Stillman lacks the conviction to follow his instincts to their logical, violent conclusions, Godard faces his uncompromising story with elegance and courage. In French, with subtitles that are occasionally difficult to read. --Miles Bethany --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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What I would add is that this film best shows the change that female sexual liberation had on society. The boy, totally in love, has nothing of value to give to a girl who considers sex an everyday occurance -- a big change from the going-steady days of the late fifties and early sixties when sex was the culmination of a protracted courtship. The masculine and feminine roles changed forever and continue so to this day. Goddard was there first. In 1966, this film was cutting edge. In 1999 it remains an important work with a lot to say to the present generation concerning the battle of the sexes that has, apparently, been won for good by the ladies.
I saw it in 1966 on a first date with a very conservative girl who was convinced after we left the theatre that I was a sex pervert. Unfortunately for me she was as yet unwashed by the New Wave.
Released after the successful "Pierrot le fou" (1965), "Masculin féminin: 15 faits précis" would become a different film by Godard standards as it would focus on Parisian youth in 1965 but also start to show signs of a different Godard (who separated from Anna Karina, who was a major actress in his films) and also a precursor to his films incorporating his political views. But as for the characters featured in "Masculin féminin: 15 faits précis", call the young adults that were a sign of the times or as Godard would call them, "the children of Marx and Coca-Cola".
"Masculin féminin: 15 faits précis" was scrutinized and lambasted by critics during its release in 1966, many of those critics who have revisited the film have taken back what they originally have said and now realize how it is one of Godard's best films and some have considered it a masterpiece that was ahead of its time.
VIDEO & AUDIO:
"Masculin féminin" is featured in black and white and presented in 1:33:1. Cinematographer Willy Kurant supervised the new high-definition digital transfer which was created on a Spirit Datacine from the 35mm grain master. Also, thousands of instances of dirt, debris and scratches were removed from the MTI Digital Restoration Ssytem.
As for the audio, the French monoraul soundtrack was mastered at 24-bit from the optical soundtrack master and audio restoration tools were used the Criterion to remove clicks, pops, hiss and crackle. The film is Dolby Digital 1.0 and center channel driven but for those who own modern home theater surround sound receivers, one can easily switch the audio via audio on all channels or stereo, to their own preference. Also, included is a selection for the the optional isolated music track.
Subtitles are in English.
"Masculin féminin" comes with the following special features:
* Chantal Goya (1966) - (4:50) An excerpt of an interview filmed for the TV show "Au-Dela De L'Ecran", Goya talks about being a pop star and working on "Masculin féminin".
* Chantal Goya (2005) - (15:07) Interview with Chantal Goya in 2005 as she talks about her experience working with Jean-Luc Godard and on "Masculin féminin".
* Willy Kurant - (11:59) 2005 Interview (in English) with "Masculin féminin"cinematographer about his career and working with Godard.
* Jean-Pierre Gorin - (15:36) A 2005 interview (in English) in which Godard's Dziga-Vertov Group business partner talks about the historical and experimentation of "Masculin féminin".
* Freddy Buache and Dominique Paini - (24:56) In 2004, Freddy Buache (film critic and founder of Cinematheque Suisse) and Dominque Paini (Director of Cultural Development for the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris) talk about the importance of "Masculin féminin" and how Buache criticized it when it was first released but now considers it an important Godard film.
* Godard on Swedish Television - (4:07) With "Masculin féminin" being a co-production between Godard's Anouchka Films and the Swedish Production Firm Sandrews Films, a Swedish television crew were there to interview the director who was filming the "movie" scene.
* Original Theatrical Trailer - (2:01) The original theatrical trailer.
* Rialto Pictures Rerelease Trailer - (1:53) Remastered Rialto Pictures trailer.
* Essay Booklet - 14-page booklet featuring an essay "The Young Man for All Times" by Adrian Martin (film critic for the Melbourne Age) and "On the Set of Masculin Feminin" (an excerpt from the article "One Evening, In a Small Cafe" by Phillipe Labro.
"Masculin féminin: 15 faits précis" is quite a unique film, so unique that it was a film which I absolutely enjoyed. It's not a film that one can come and watch and say, I enjoy "Breathless" or "Pierrot le fou", I will love "Masculin féminin: 15 faits précis". Nor is it a film in today's modern world where you can think that if you enjoyed young adult films such as "Dazed and Confused" or "Metropolis" that you will enjoy "Masculin féminin: 15 faits précis" because the structure of the film is so different. There are way too many disruptions for the film's pacing and odd situations that either one can appreciate them or simply dislike them. Especially when you reach the ending.
I absolutely loved the improvisation and also the long use of dialogue between characters. I have said that I enjoyed Eric Rohmer's "My Night at Maud's" for effectively making long dialogue scenes so enjoyable but yet intelligent. If one can capitalize on moments in a film where communication is done effectively. And since the film was created with a low budget,Godard made great use of dialogue. In fact, because Godard didn't use a script, he had earpieces in which the talent were filmed answering questions that the director would ask them. He would effectively use the talent, tell them what to say on the earpiece and try to get an improvised but yet natural answer in which topics would bring out that awkwardness.
For example, a scene where Paul interviews "Miss 19', an actual beauty cover girl for a magazine that is being asked questions, even personal questions about sexuality, her past loves and political views. Her answers were not of an actress but her genuine answers. You can sense that uncomfort in her answers but that's what Godard wanted for this film. True feelings by people who represent that young generation in Paris.
As for the DVD, The Criterion Collection has done a magnificent job in restoring this film, supervised by cinematographer Willy Kurant. A good number of special features that are interesting, informative and enjoyable. It was great to hear from Chantal Goya sharing some of the Godard behind-the-scenes direction with the viewer. How the discussion about Madeleine's music career was actually a dialogue about her own music career but Godard using it on the film. And of course, Jean-Pierre Léaud is just a talented actor that both Francois Truffaut and Godard knew how to utilize in their films (despite Truffaut being a bit critical on how Godard handled him for this film). We sense a young man who is trying to make sense of his life. Has a set perspective yet being with a woman who is nothing like him nor does she want to be like him.
Masculin féminin: 15 faits précis" is a film that is definitely not a perfect film. In fact, because there are quite a few disruptions and the pacing is quite frantic at times, some people may see it as a film that is too artsy for its own good. As mentioned earlier, critics really blasted Godard for this film when it was first released. But the fact was, it was a film ahead of its time and what we have is a time capsule of youth, Paris during the mid-60's that now, many people who lived during that time, can watch this film and say, "this film was a masterpiece".
Overall, "Masculin féminin: 15 faits précis" is a film that is not only worth of being included in the Criterion Collection but also a Godard film worth owning. Highly recommended!
Jean-Pierre Leaud as Paul, Godard's hero is passionately in love with Madeleine (Chantal Goya) but Paul is also passionately in hate of the war in Vietnam and the De Gaulle government. Godard is making a love story but he is making it in the real world of France, 1966: student riots, a world that Godard describes as "the world of the children of Marx and Coca Cola."
Godard is not making a docudrama though and he lets us know this with his formal structuring of the plot: he divides Paul's story into chapters to make sure we understand that this is a movie that we are watching and that he is a film maker arranging and conducting the scenes.
Despite all this though: Godard has made a thoughtful and touching film about fervent young love and the blind, maybe even mis-guided righteousness of the young and foolish.
"Masculine-Feminine" is real and superbly made and it a pleasure to re-discover it's many charms and to experience once again it's enchanting and vulnerable love story.
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