Does Godard really want me to feel guilty about being a woman? If so, he succeeded in Masculine/Feminine. When the film was over, I was at a loss for words. I do not know why because I should not be too shocked with the interviews by the women in this film showing a lack of intellect and a depth of superficiality. After all, I live in a world where reality shows like The Hills and The Bachelor revel in that dichotomy. I also live in a world where a teen beauty pageant contestant could not coherently answer a question about why people cannot locate US on a map. (I wonder what she would have said about contraceptives and abortion. But in pageant world, sex does not exist. Forget about asking whether Roe v. Wade should be overturned, we must focus on world peace!). Just as Madeline and her friends serve to represent views of the modern young French woman, Debbie Matenopoulos, Lisa Ling, and Elisabeth Hasselback were supposed to represent the view of the modern young American woman on The View but ultimately failing by being “too dumb”, “too boring”, and “too conservative.” Also not helping to alleviate this guilt is the beginning of the film begins with “Masculin” and ends with “Feminin” as if to say that women are the end of society as he knew it. We are too busy primping to achieve that natural look and playing men for fools with sung promises and teases of sexual liberation to give a damn.
So why the wordless initial reaction? I doubt it was the lack of narrative coherency because Godard has not had any since Breathless and even that is debatable. Also, I think it fits with the idea that the youth are more disconnected to society and to each other than the previous generation. For example, Madeline sings a love song that has charted in Japan, which makes her produce more singles about love. Yet, she rejects love by not fully giving her attention to Paul. Love is a commodity not a feeling.
Upon my second viewing of the film, I felt a little less shell-shocked but I still find it disconcerting. Perhaps I am just disappointed that the image of women as self-absorbed entities has not changed. In fact, it has been magnified and celebrated.