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“Masculin féminin”: A Film in Several Acts About Youth and Sex

Today only: Jean-Luc Godard’s Masculin féminin, a playfully biting picture of the 1960s political and apolitical youth, is playing for free in the UK and Ireland!


"Not since DW Griffith was knocking out a weekly two-reeler at the Biograph studio on 14th Street had there been anything to equal the 15-feature run that Jean-Luc Godard began with Breathless (1960) and ended, still accelerating, in the cataclysm of Weekend (1967)," J Hoberman wrote in the Voice back in 2005. "Directed by anyone else, Masculine Feminine - one of three movies that Godard made in his peak year, 1966 - would be a masterpiece. For the young JLG it's business as usual."

Much of last summer was spent looking back at 1968, forty years on, and of course, the 60s in general. Accordingly, Film Forum ran a series, Godard's 60s, and Masculin féminin, today's feature in the Recyclage de luxe Online Film Festival, was part of the lineup. Click here, scroll way down the film's section and you'll see that you can download a 13-minute introduction to the May 25 screening by Richard Brody, author of Everything Is Cinema: The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard. And for more on Godard and film in general in the 60s, see these GreenCine Daily roundups: 1, 2, 3 and 4.

"Taking Masculin féminin as primarily a chronicle of the sixties, however, obscures the film's achievement, both as a work of art and as a personal testament," Adrian Martin advises us in a 2005 piece for Criterion. "Aesthetically, Masculin féminin can easily seem like one of Godard's more casual efforts: a collection of fragments, notes, improvisations. Looked at closely, it coheres into a tight pattern that is surprisingly classical and balanced.... As in Vivre sa vie (1962 [tomorrow's feature!]), but more rigorously, Godard tries out all the available techniques (long takes versus extensive editing, static camera versus moving camera) as he experiments with different ways of rendering the verbal exchanges between his characters - demonstrating that truth can never be simply filmed in a singular, transparent way, while trying, all the same, to reach and express that truth through a mosaic or collage structure."

In short, as Slant's Ed Gonzalez once put it, "Godard's satire of the children of Marx and Coca-Cola still resonates today."

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