Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Wild Love - Masculin féminin

Masculin féminin has something for everyone. Not only is it for me the apex of Godard's romantic comedies, it's also the subtlest of his political films; there are no outlandish, unrealistic monologues delivered in political argot, nor are there any Truffautian paeans to love. Both of those things may be wonderful, but this is May '68 in '66; France's post-colonial agitation had begun and what's most refreshing (is that the right word?) is that there's no hint of isolationist rhetoric or warped Wilsonian internationalism. Godard's joie de vivre illuminates both political conviction and carefree love in ways that few films have before or since.

By borrowing General Doinel from Truffaut, Godard captures Leaud the libertine at his peak. Vulnerable and virile, Leaud plays with the expectations of youth and how they sabotage them, from whimiscal allegiances to acts of idiosyncratic defiance. In six short years, Godard would come out the other side as a hard-bitten, disillusioned Marxist, upset with the failures of the movement and its token gestures toward rebellion and revolution in Tout Va Bien.

That maturation and wide-eyed understanding are the elements that make Godard's political love stories so believable; in many ways these works are novelizations of serious documentaries and other works of non-fiction, retold in a style that takes into account humanity and sexuality. The encumbered complexities are what is often forgotten in Leftist politics, even though everyone from Bernardo Bertolucci to Todd Gitlin understood the importance of sex in its relationship to anti-fascist politics including feminism as elements of a holistic view of humanism, leaving the sexless stereotypes to the Americanized, sanitized Second Wave and its middle-class mannerisms and cult of the individual essentialisms. Godard's problematic, contradictory impulses make for a more interesting film that is as much a document about the time as it is a story of it.


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