Masculine Feminine


1h 43m 1966
Masculine Feminine

Brief Synopsis

An aspiring writer becomes involved with a rising pop star and her two roommates.

Film Details

Also Known As
Masculin Féminin, Maskulinum-Femininum
Genre
Romance
Drama
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1966
Premiere Information
New York opening: 19 Sep 1966
Production Company
Anouchka Films; Argos Films; Sandrews; Svensk Filmindustri
Distribution Company
Royal Films International
Country
France
Location
Paris, France
Screenplay Information
Based on the short story "La femme de Paul" by Guy de Maupassant in La Maison Tellier (Paris, 1881) and his short story "Le signe" in Gil Blas (17 Apr 1886).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 43m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1

Synopsis

Following his discharge from the army, a young French Marxist named Paul becomes an interrogator for a public opinion poll concerned primarily with the attitudes and opinions of the country's youth. After casually watching a woman murder her husband on a Paris street, Paul strikes up an acquaintance with a singer, Madeleine, who openly admits to using sex to further her career. He moves in with her and her two roommates, Elisabeth and Catherine, and becomes involved in the web of their relationship. Paul joins their get-togethers at coffee shops, discotheques, cafés, and the cinema, where they see a Swedish erotic film [made by Godard]. Their conversations include discussions of birth control, James Bond, military and civil authority, sexual perversion, and Communism versus democracy. One day he watches a demonstration against U. S. involvement in Vietnam in which President Johnson is compared to Hitler and a young radical burns himself to death screaming "Give us TV and cars but spare us liberty." Paul is still undecided about his future when his mother dies and leaves him a considerable amount of money, which he uses to buy a small, unfinished building. One day, while inspecting it, he falls--or perhaps jumps--to his death, leaving behind a pregnant Madeleine.

Film Details

Also Known As
Masculin Féminin, Maskulinum-Femininum
Genre
Romance
Drama
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1966
Premiere Information
New York opening: 19 Sep 1966
Production Company
Anouchka Films; Argos Films; Sandrews; Svensk Filmindustri
Distribution Company
Royal Films International
Country
France
Location
Paris, France
Screenplay Information
Based on the short story "La femme de Paul" by Guy de Maupassant in La Maison Tellier (Paris, 1881) and his short story "Le signe" in Gil Blas (17 Apr 1886).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 43m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1

Articles

Masculin Feminin


In the mid-1960s, the spirit of youthful rebellion was a worldwide phenomenon, with young people in their teens and twenties setting trends in fashion, music, political activism, and liberated ideas about sexuality. Filmmakers of the French New Wave, who themselves had rebelled against what they saw as stale, old-fashioned filmmaking in the previous decade, continued their innovative ways, and none was more daring and ambitious than Jean-Luc Godard.

By 1965, Godard's relationship with his wife and muse, Anna Karina, was over, and he was ready for fresh ideas in his films as well. When producer Anatole Dauman suggested that he adapt a Guy de Maupassant short story, Godard agreed, although the finished film had very little of the two de Maupassant stories that were the initial inspiration. Instead, Godard turned Masculine Feminine (1966) into his unique take on youth culture, what he called not a film about youth, but "a film on the idea of youth." As he explains in a famous intertitle in Masculine Feminine (1966), "This film could be called The Children of Marx and Coca Cola." But it was as much about changes within Godard himself. As he explained, "I chose young people because I no longer have any idea where I am from the point of view of cinema....Talking with young people was an easier way to find myself than talking with adults."

The story of Paul, a young writer who pursues an aspiring pop singer and ends up living with her and her two roommates, was just an excuse to explore youthful attitudes about love, sex, politics and culture. As Paul says in a voiceover, "Times had changed. It was the age of James Bond and Vietnam. Hope swept the French left as the December elections loomed. I turned 21 two days before."

The actors Godard cast were not from his usual stock company. The leading role of Paul was played by Jean-Pierre Leaud, who had become famous playing Antoine Doinel in Francois Truffaut's debut feature, The 400 Blows (1959), a character he reprised repeatedly over the years. Truffaut was very protective of his young discovery, and in a letter written to Godard in 1973, after the two had a very public and painful falling out, Truffaut criticized how his former friend used Leaud in the film: "It was in Masculin Feminin that I noticed for the first time how he could be filled with anxiety rather than pleasure at the notion of finding himself in front of a camera...That first scene, in the café, was a painful experience for anyone looking at him with affection and not with an entomologist's eye."

Real-life pop singer Chantal Goya, a Natalie Wood lookalike, plays the aspiring pop singer Madeleine. Goya was a "ye-ye girl," a bubblegum-pop star of the era. (The term derives from the English expression, "yeah yeah," as in the Beatles song, "She Loves You (Yeah Yeah)") Goya appeared in a few films, and went on to a different career, as the star and producer of elaborate, Disney-style stage shows for children.

Godard used Masculine Feminine to experiment with filmmaking techniques, alternating long, static takes with documentary-style street scenes, and playing with the sound mix. He did not work from a script, but instead used a spiral notebook filled with handwritten notes. Years later, he claimed in an interview that "There were no written dialogues; they were real interviews with the actors. I did the interviewing myself...and later mixed up these interviews in the editing...so that people would think the characters are talking to each other." It's also likely that Godard had his actors wear earphones through which he whispered questions for them to ask each other as the camera rolled. When the film was released, it was banned for people under eighteen -- "the very audience it was intended for," Godard complained.

The critics' opinions of Masculine Feminine were definitely mixed. The fusty Bosley Crowther of the New York Times wrote, "There are some cute things in it....But it adds up to entertainment of only the most loose and spotty sort." Others were more enthusiastic. Pauline Kael of the New Republic wrote that it "shows the most dazzlingly inventive and audacious artist in movies today at a new peak." She realized that the film was an important advance in Godard's evolution as a filmmaker: "Using neither crime nor the romance of crime but a simple kind of romance for a kind of interwoven story line, Godard has, at last, created the form he needed. It is a combination of essay, journalistic sketches, news and portraiture, love lyric and satire."

Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Producer: Anatole Dauman
Screenplay: Jean Luc Godard, based on two stories by Guy de Maupassant
Cinematography: Willy Kurant
Editor: Agnes Guillemot
Music: Jean-Jacques Debout
Principal Cast: Jean-Pierre Leaud (Paul), Chantal Goya (Madeleine), Marlene Jobert (Elisabeth), Michel Debord (Robert), Catherine-Isabelle Duport (Catherine-Isabelle), Elsa Leroy (Mlle. 19) Evabritt Strandberg (woman in film), Birger Malmsen (Man in film)
103 minutes

by Margarita Landazuri
Masculin Feminin

Masculin Feminin

In the mid-1960s, the spirit of youthful rebellion was a worldwide phenomenon, with young people in their teens and twenties setting trends in fashion, music, political activism, and liberated ideas about sexuality. Filmmakers of the French New Wave, who themselves had rebelled against what they saw as stale, old-fashioned filmmaking in the previous decade, continued their innovative ways, and none was more daring and ambitious than Jean-Luc Godard. By 1965, Godard's relationship with his wife and muse, Anna Karina, was over, and he was ready for fresh ideas in his films as well. When producer Anatole Dauman suggested that he adapt a Guy de Maupassant short story, Godard agreed, although the finished film had very little of the two de Maupassant stories that were the initial inspiration. Instead, Godard turned Masculine Feminine (1966) into his unique take on youth culture, what he called not a film about youth, but "a film on the idea of youth." As he explains in a famous intertitle in Masculine Feminine (1966), "This film could be called The Children of Marx and Coca Cola." But it was as much about changes within Godard himself. As he explained, "I chose young people because I no longer have any idea where I am from the point of view of cinema....Talking with young people was an easier way to find myself than talking with adults." The story of Paul, a young writer who pursues an aspiring pop singer and ends up living with her and her two roommates, was just an excuse to explore youthful attitudes about love, sex, politics and culture. As Paul says in a voiceover, "Times had changed. It was the age of James Bond and Vietnam. Hope swept the French left as the December elections loomed. I turned 21 two days before." The actors Godard cast were not from his usual stock company. The leading role of Paul was played by Jean-Pierre Leaud, who had become famous playing Antoine Doinel in Francois Truffaut's debut feature, The 400 Blows (1959), a character he reprised repeatedly over the years. Truffaut was very protective of his young discovery, and in a letter written to Godard in 1973, after the two had a very public and painful falling out, Truffaut criticized how his former friend used Leaud in the film: "It was in Masculin Feminin that I noticed for the first time how he could be filled with anxiety rather than pleasure at the notion of finding himself in front of a camera...That first scene, in the café, was a painful experience for anyone looking at him with affection and not with an entomologist's eye." Real-life pop singer Chantal Goya, a Natalie Wood lookalike, plays the aspiring pop singer Madeleine. Goya was a "ye-ye girl," a bubblegum-pop star of the era. (The term derives from the English expression, "yeah yeah," as in the Beatles song, "She Loves You (Yeah Yeah)") Goya appeared in a few films, and went on to a different career, as the star and producer of elaborate, Disney-style stage shows for children. Godard used Masculine Feminine to experiment with filmmaking techniques, alternating long, static takes with documentary-style street scenes, and playing with the sound mix. He did not work from a script, but instead used a spiral notebook filled with handwritten notes. Years later, he claimed in an interview that "There were no written dialogues; they were real interviews with the actors. I did the interviewing myself...and later mixed up these interviews in the editing...so that people would think the characters are talking to each other." It's also likely that Godard had his actors wear earphones through which he whispered questions for them to ask each other as the camera rolled. When the film was released, it was banned for people under eighteen -- "the very audience it was intended for," Godard complained. The critics' opinions of Masculine Feminine were definitely mixed. The fusty Bosley Crowther of the New York Times wrote, "There are some cute things in it....But it adds up to entertainment of only the most loose and spotty sort." Others were more enthusiastic. Pauline Kael of the New Republic wrote that it "shows the most dazzlingly inventive and audacious artist in movies today at a new peak." She realized that the film was an important advance in Godard's evolution as a filmmaker: "Using neither crime nor the romance of crime but a simple kind of romance for a kind of interwoven story line, Godard has, at last, created the form he needed. It is a combination of essay, journalistic sketches, news and portraiture, love lyric and satire." Director: Jean-Luc Godard Producer: Anatole Dauman Screenplay: Jean Luc Godard, based on two stories by Guy de Maupassant Cinematography: Willy Kurant Editor: Agnes Guillemot Music: Jean-Jacques Debout Principal Cast: Jean-Pierre Leaud (Paul), Chantal Goya (Madeleine), Marlene Jobert (Elisabeth), Michel Debord (Robert), Catherine-Isabelle Duport (Catherine-Isabelle), Elsa Leroy (Mlle. 19) Evabritt Strandberg (woman in film), Birger Malmsen (Man in film) 103 minutes by Margarita Landazuri

Jean-Luc Godard's Masculin Feminin on DVD


Jean-Luc Godard's first feature after his genre takeoffs Alphaville and Pierrot le fou returns to the streets of Paris on a different stylistic track than earlier pictures like Band of Outsiders. Masculin féminin directly addresses the politics of a youthful generation divided between activism and consumerism. The boys in Godard's equation show a keen interest in the issues of the day but are self-centered troublemakers unlikely to be taken seriously by anyone. The girls are far more civilized but also oblivious to politics beyond their individual careers and fashion images. The film's famous quote comes courtesy of one of Godard's jarring inter-titles, which proclaims the young generation as "The children of Marx & Coca-Cola."

Synopsis: Just out of the army, nervy upstart Paul (Jean-Pierre Léaud) meets young singer Madeleine (Chantal Goya) in a café and pursues her while also flirting with liberal causes with his pal and fellow womanizer Robert (Michel Debord). Elisabeth (Marlène Jobert) rounds out the foursome and Paul and Madeleine eventually become lovers. Then Paul switches jobs to poll young people about their feelings, discovering that the youths he meets aren't any more politically aware than the older generation -- and that his faulty polling method is subject to his own bias. As Madeleine's singing career takes a big upswing, she decides that she'll let Paul 'hang around' until he starts to make a pest of himself.

Godard borrows Francois Truffaut's 'Antoine Doinel' actor Jean-Pierre Léaud but uses him quite differently. The amusing Paul and his equally egotistical friend Robert aren't idealized or cute. They're impassioned exponents of liberal politics but complete boors on the street, heckling and harassing young women in cafés just for the sake of being fresh. For Paul's female foil, Godard taps Chantal Goya, a then-rising yé yé pop singer. Madeleine bounces into one scene chanting, "I just made number six in Japan!" - which had just happened to Ms. Goya in real life. Godard possibly picked Goya expecting a fresh-faced kid to fit into his preconceived idea of teen girls as vacant materialists, but Goya shows a surprising sensitivity. To illustrate his thesis, the director must include an interview with a teen Miss contest winner. She indeed keeps a poised smile on her face, promoting a wholesome self-image while deflecting questions about politics. "I really don't know what socialism is."

The boys talk a good line about liberation but their progressive action boils down to little more than leafleting and spraying graffiti. And, of course, making a big show of how intellectually rebellious they are. They paint 'Get out of Vietnam' on the side of a U.S. Army officer's car. Paul asserts his importance by interrupting Madeleine's radio hits with classical music - his insecurity is not the endearing kind familiar from the Truffaut films. Madeleine becomes Paul's lover but never fools herself that he's Mr. Right.

Godard decorates his tale with title cards to introduce the film's 15 parts, but Masculin féminin is several degrees less self-conscious than his work before and after. Attempts to deconstruct cinema are mostly absent and his messages are not the bald sloganeering of his later work. He does wrap things up with an abrupt finish as a display of his disinterest in conventional narrative forms.

Godard has already sidestepped his narrative framework when a voiceover explains that Paul has changed jobs and become a pollster. Several direct interview scenes follow. Godard's off-screen questions were replaced with Jean-Pierre Léaud's voice.

According to testimony from Criterion's interview extras, Godard used the same method to direct what appear to be free-form open discussions between his characters. He shot both sides of a heated conversation separately, 'playing' the opposite character and letting the actor improvise his responses. When the two halves are married and Godard removed, what's left is a spirited dialogue scene that appears to be spontaneous. Much of Godard's show isn't scripted in the usual sense, but by no means does he let the actors make it up as they go – he still exercises control.

The film has a buoyant pace. Willy Kurant's rich and resourceful camerawork is a good replacement for Raoul Coutard's unique visuals. Brigitte Bardot's cameo is easy to spot in a café scene but sharp-eyed viewers will want to be on the lookout for the beautiful Francoise Hardy ( Grand Prix, What's New Pussycat? ) as the date of an American Army officer.

Criterion's DVD of Masculin féminin is handsomely transferred at its original flat ratio. Chantal Goya's catchy French-language pop tunes come across clearly on the restored soundtrack. The extras lined up by Criterion producer Issa Clubb include a discussion by two French film critics but the real treasures are the interviews with cameraman Willy Kurant, Godard collaborator Jean-Pierre Gorin and the captivating Ms. Goya. We see her first in 1966 as an ambitious pop idol. She tries on some flower-power mod glasses, pointing forward to the coming hippie era. Interviewed again in 2005, Goya has quite a different perspective on those years. Radical provocation was never her thing, and she remembers her parents being shocked by her dialogue about birth control and abortion. She continued as a star of kiddie entertainment.

An archival news film shows Godard in Sweden directing the film's Bergmanesque movie-within-a-movie. When asked why he's come to Stockholm he skips artistic explanations to flatly report that Swedish money is in the film. An insert booklet contains an essay by Adrian Martin and observances from the set by journalist Philippe Labro. We're reminded that having just finished his military service, Paul is not a teenager but a young adult; most mid-sixties Parisian teens couldn't afford Paul's café lifestyle.

Godard ends the original French trailer with a wickedly funny voiceover comment on the film's adults-only rating: It's all about teenagers, and so of course they cannot be allowed to see it.

For more information about Masculin Feminin, visit the Criterion Collection. To order Masculin Feminin, go to TCM Shopping.

by Glenn Erickson

Jean-Luc Godard's Masculin Feminin on DVD

Jean-Luc Godard's first feature after his genre takeoffs Alphaville and Pierrot le fou returns to the streets of Paris on a different stylistic track than earlier pictures like Band of Outsiders. Masculin féminin directly addresses the politics of a youthful generation divided between activism and consumerism. The boys in Godard's equation show a keen interest in the issues of the day but are self-centered troublemakers unlikely to be taken seriously by anyone. The girls are far more civilized but also oblivious to politics beyond their individual careers and fashion images. The film's famous quote comes courtesy of one of Godard's jarring inter-titles, which proclaims the young generation as "The children of Marx & Coca-Cola." Synopsis: Just out of the army, nervy upstart Paul (Jean-Pierre Léaud) meets young singer Madeleine (Chantal Goya) in a café and pursues her while also flirting with liberal causes with his pal and fellow womanizer Robert (Michel Debord). Elisabeth (Marlène Jobert) rounds out the foursome and Paul and Madeleine eventually become lovers. Then Paul switches jobs to poll young people about their feelings, discovering that the youths he meets aren't any more politically aware than the older generation -- and that his faulty polling method is subject to his own bias. As Madeleine's singing career takes a big upswing, she decides that she'll let Paul 'hang around' until he starts to make a pest of himself. Godard borrows Francois Truffaut's 'Antoine Doinel' actor Jean-Pierre Léaud but uses him quite differently. The amusing Paul and his equally egotistical friend Robert aren't idealized or cute. They're impassioned exponents of liberal politics but complete boors on the street, heckling and harassing young women in cafés just for the sake of being fresh. For Paul's female foil, Godard taps Chantal Goya, a then-rising yé yé pop singer. Madeleine bounces into one scene chanting, "I just made number six in Japan!" - which had just happened to Ms. Goya in real life. Godard possibly picked Goya expecting a fresh-faced kid to fit into his preconceived idea of teen girls as vacant materialists, but Goya shows a surprising sensitivity. To illustrate his thesis, the director must include an interview with a teen Miss contest winner. She indeed keeps a poised smile on her face, promoting a wholesome self-image while deflecting questions about politics. "I really don't know what socialism is." The boys talk a good line about liberation but their progressive action boils down to little more than leafleting and spraying graffiti. And, of course, making a big show of how intellectually rebellious they are. They paint 'Get out of Vietnam' on the side of a U.S. Army officer's car. Paul asserts his importance by interrupting Madeleine's radio hits with classical music - his insecurity is not the endearing kind familiar from the Truffaut films. Madeleine becomes Paul's lover but never fools herself that he's Mr. Right. Godard decorates his tale with title cards to introduce the film's 15 parts, but Masculin féminin is several degrees less self-conscious than his work before and after. Attempts to deconstruct cinema are mostly absent and his messages are not the bald sloganeering of his later work. He does wrap things up with an abrupt finish as a display of his disinterest in conventional narrative forms. Godard has already sidestepped his narrative framework when a voiceover explains that Paul has changed jobs and become a pollster. Several direct interview scenes follow. Godard's off-screen questions were replaced with Jean-Pierre Léaud's voice. According to testimony from Criterion's interview extras, Godard used the same method to direct what appear to be free-form open discussions between his characters. He shot both sides of a heated conversation separately, 'playing' the opposite character and letting the actor improvise his responses. When the two halves are married and Godard removed, what's left is a spirited dialogue scene that appears to be spontaneous. Much of Godard's show isn't scripted in the usual sense, but by no means does he let the actors make it up as they go – he still exercises control. The film has a buoyant pace. Willy Kurant's rich and resourceful camerawork is a good replacement for Raoul Coutard's unique visuals. Brigitte Bardot's cameo is easy to spot in a café scene but sharp-eyed viewers will want to be on the lookout for the beautiful Francoise Hardy ( Grand Prix, What's New Pussycat? ) as the date of an American Army officer. Criterion's DVD of Masculin féminin is handsomely transferred at its original flat ratio. Chantal Goya's catchy French-language pop tunes come across clearly on the restored soundtrack. The extras lined up by Criterion producer Issa Clubb include a discussion by two French film critics but the real treasures are the interviews with cameraman Willy Kurant, Godard collaborator Jean-Pierre Gorin and the captivating Ms. Goya. We see her first in 1966 as an ambitious pop idol. She tries on some flower-power mod glasses, pointing forward to the coming hippie era. Interviewed again in 2005, Goya has quite a different perspective on those years. Radical provocation was never her thing, and she remembers her parents being shocked by her dialogue about birth control and abortion. She continued as a star of kiddie entertainment. An archival news film shows Godard in Sweden directing the film's Bergmanesque movie-within-a-movie. When asked why he's come to Stockholm he skips artistic explanations to flatly report that Swedish money is in the film. An insert booklet contains an essay by Adrian Martin and observances from the set by journalist Philippe Labro. We're reminded that having just finished his military service, Paul is not a teenager but a young adult; most mid-sixties Parisian teens couldn't afford Paul's café lifestyle. Godard ends the original French trailer with a wickedly funny voiceover comment on the film's adults-only rating: It's all about teenagers, and so of course they cannot be allowed to see it. For more information about Masculin Feminin, visit the Criterion Collection. To order Masculin Feminin, go to TCM Shopping. by Glenn Erickson

Quotes

We control our thoughts which mean nothing, and not our emotions which mean everything.
- Paul
Kill a man and you're a murderer. Kill thousands and you're a conqueror. Kill everyone and you're a god.
- Paul
I don't think God exists.
- Elisabeth
We shall see.
- Paul

Trivia

Notes

Released in France in 1966 as Masculin féminin; running time: 110 min; in Sweden in 1966 as Maskulinum-Femininum. Filmed on location in Paris.

Miscellaneous Notes

Shown at the National Film Theatre in London, England as part of a special two-month program dedicated to Jean-Luc Godard, June 1 - July 31, 2001.

Began shooting November 1965.

Completed shooting December 1965.

Released in United States 1966 (Shown at 1966 Berlin Film Festival.)

Released in United States 1990 (Shown at San Francisco International Film Festival (Tribute to Anatole Dauman) April 30 - May 13, 1990.)

Winner of the Best Actor Prize (Leaud) at the 1966 Berlin Film Festival.

Limited re-release in United States February 11, 2005

Released in United States 1966

Released in United States 1990

Released in United States 1995

Released in United States 2001

Released in United States April 22, 1966

Released in United States Fall October 1966

Released in United States June 2, 1990

Released in United States on Video May 28, 1996

Released in United States on Video October 1991

Released in United States September 18, 1966

Shown at 1966 Berlin Film Festival.

Shown at New York Film Festival September 18, 1966.

Shown at Pacific Film Archive (A Producer's Vision: Anatole Dauman) in Berkeley, California June 2, 1990.

Shown at San Francisco International Film Festival (Tribute to Anatole Dauman) April 30 - May 13, 1990.

Released in United States 2001 (Shown at the National Film Theatre in London, England as part of a special two-month program dedicated to Jean-Luc Godard, June 1 - July 31, 2001.)

Limited re-release in United States February 11, 2005

Released in United States April 22, 1966 (Premiered in Paris April 22, 1966.)

Released in United States on Video October 1991

Released in United States on Video May 28, 1996

Released in United States 1995 (Shown in New York City (Walter Reade) as part of program "Growing Up with Jean-Pierre Leaud: Nouvelle Vague's Wild Child" December 16 - January 6, 1995.)

Released in United States Fall October 1966

Released in United States September 18, 1966 (Shown at New York Film Festival September 18, 1966.)

Released in United States June 2, 1990 (Shown at Pacific Film Archive (A Producer's Vision: Anatole Dauman) in Berkeley, California June 2, 1990.)

Film was tagged "The children of Marx and Coca-Cola" by Godard.