Whimsical, disjointed and thought-provoking, Masculin Feminin provides valuable insight into the societal roles or expected roles of men and women. Set in 1960s Paris, the film had clear Marxist and socialist influences, but is revealing in how young men in socialist systems behave so closely to capitalist ones. They’re horny all the time but also idealistic, and question the sanity of everyone of their peers around them who isn’t.
But the film is also illuminating to see how much power the men have over the women, and in smaller aspects, the women over the men. The boys question the girls about their love lives, who they’ve slept with, who they’re sleeping with now, if they love anyone, if they love at all. The women hold back on giving revealing answers, knowing that their power lies in mystery. Everyone is trying to extract information but few are saying anything revealing.
Everything happens in moments in this film, not so much a story but a series of short films with the same cast of characters, with few overly dramatic scenes. When we find out Madeline is pregnant, we don’t see the act of conception, we just hear the result. We don’t see Paul’s suicide, we don’t see him jumping, we just hear the final conclusion. Very little emotion is shown at other characters, no outbursts or passionate declarations of love. It’s bizarre but intriguing a passionless look at a passionate romance.
The film goes to great lengths to be artsy (it’s Jean-Luc Godard after all), with music cutting out and random scenes so highly symbolic that even if you tried to decipher them you’d lose meaning, or make a fool out of yourself for even trying. The symbolism loses its impact frequently, but it’s still a worthwhile and entertaining study on social roles and sexuality, and just how much and how little has changed.