By Jeffrey M. Anderson
French New Wave icon Jean-Pierre Leaud was best known as the sullen romantic Antoine Doniel in Francois Truffaut's five-film cycle. In "Masculine Feminine," he stars as the other half of his persona for director Jean-Luc Godard. Ostensibly, the film traces the relationship between left-wing rebel Paul (Leaud) and pop singer Madeleine (Chantal Goya). But as always, Godard uses the story to hang a myriad of sociopolitical ideas and pop culture references upon. No one was ever better at collecting a hodgepodge of ideas and making them work as a cohesive whole, as the voice of one hyper-intelligent, constantly frustrated commentator.
The film progresses through 15 chapters, watching as Madeleine rises in her singing career, as Paul earns a living interviewing teen idols, and as they eventually become roommates along with Madeleine's two female friends. Paul tries to impart his taste for Bach and communism on the girls, but they either ignore him or laugh at him. Godard isn't even interested in anything like passion or sex as much as listening to his characters talk.
Certainly, this was one of Godard's masterworks made during a period of incredible productivity and quality (beginning with "Breathless" in 1959 and culminating with "Weekend" in 1967). As always, it helps to just let the movie wash over you and take in whatever ideas stick -- then see it again. Brigitte Bardot (who had worked with Godard earlier in 1963's "Contempt") appears in a cameo, going over a script for her next film.
**** out of ****
(103m | NR)