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Jean-Pierre Léaud: The New Wave and After

Thursday, February 14, 2008
8:50 p.m. Masculine Feminine
Jean-Luc Godard (France, 1966)

(Masculin Féminin). A film about “the children of Marx and Coca-Cola” by the child of Brecht and Hollywood. Paul (Léaud), fresh out of the army, sets about trying to find la tendresse among the young set in Paris. He falls in love with Madeleine (Chantal Goya), an aspiring yé-yé singer, but she is as indifferent to Paul’s Hollywood-style romancing as she is oblivious to his political passions. From the first full-frame close-up of Paul, reading aloud, we are reminded that JPL is the perfect mouthpiece for JLG: his subsuming self-pity is humorous and he knows it, even while he speaks the truth. The film is constructed rather like a highbrow comic book, a pastiche of skits and journalistic bits, encounters and opinion polls, an introduction to the ubiquity of media we take for granted today. Godard announces it as “fifteen precise actions,” but it is the dance between precision and improvisation that makes it a film of great and surprising beauty.

—Judy Bloch

• Written by Godard, loosely based on two stories by Guy de Maupassant. Photographed by Willy Kurant. With Jean-Pierre Léaud, Chantal Goya, Catherine-Isabelle Duport, Michel Debord. (110 mins, In French with English subtitles, B&W, 35mm, From Rialto Pictures)