By the midway point of the 1960s Jean-Luc Godard was arguably at the peak of his powers. After the success of À bout de souffle, Bande à part, Alphaville and Pierrot le Fou he was one of the most sought-after directors in Europe. Whilst his work had always been political, The Vietnam War and the rising tide of youth discontent throughout the decade began to become more prevalent in his work. They feature heavily in his 1966 film Masculin Féminin.
Paul (Jean-Pierre Léaud) has recently completed his national service and is now on the lookout for a job. The young idealist meets Madelaine (Chantal Goya), an aspiring singer, in a café. He gets a job at the magazine she works for and eventually, despite having different personal and political opinions, they become romantically involved. Paul moves in to the apartment she shares with Élisabeth (Marlène Jobert) and Catherine (Catherine-Isabelle Duport). The group start hanging out together, forming tentative relationships.
Masculin Féminin is a vibrant and flighty celebration of youth and the prevailing pop culture of 1960s Paris. Indeed, the French capital is almost a character in itself thanks to Willy Kurant’s animated cinematography which captures a generation in a state of flux. Godard infuses his tale with political and social commentary at every turn, both in Paul’s actions and what he places on screen. In essence, it’s a number of different chapters within his wider manifesto. Masculin Féminin is a strange but fascinating portrait of youth.
- New 4K digital restoration, approved by cinematographer Willy Kurant, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
- Interview from 1966 with actor Chantal Goya
- Interviews from 2004 and 2005 with Goya, Kurant, and Jean-Luc Godard collaborator Jean-Pierre Gorin
- Discussion of the film from 2004 between film critics Freddy Buache and Dominique Païni
- Footage from Swedish television of Godard directing the “film within the film” scene
- PLUS: An essay by film critic Adrian Martin and a 1966 report from the set by French journalist Philippe Labro
Masculin Féminin is released on Blu-ray by the Criterion Collection on 17 May.