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Originally published Friday, June 17, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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Movie review

"Masculine Feminine": Ennui never looked so good

Back in 1966, when you could still understand what French director Jean-Luc Godard was saying, he made an odd, scattered, free-form, but...

Back in 1966, when you could still understand what French director Jean-Luc Godard was saying, he made an odd, scattered, free-form, but thoroughly engaging film called "Masculine Feminine."

In it, he examined the gender politics of Parisian youth culture at a time when the Vietnam War was raging, Citröens and cigarettes lined the Left Bank, and de Gaulle was still in power.

For the role of Paul, his handsome young romantic anti-hero, Godard chose that icon of ultra-Gallic cool: Jean-Pierre Léaud, perhaps best known as Antoine Doinel, the lost boy of François Truffaut's "The 400 Blows" and other New Wave films (Léaud reprised his role as Doinel several times.)

Photogenic pop singer Chantal Goya co-starred in "Masculine Feminine"; together, she and Léaud were what Godard described as "the children of Marx and Coca-Cola."

Godard was at his peak of productivity that year and still willing to frame his stories with a kind of narrative. And the sad-funny affected ennui of his authority-questioning, café-hopping, film-loving protagonist (Paul barges into a projection booth to complain about the aspect ratio) gave the film an irresistible poignancy.

Despite his faux-intellectual mask of cynicism, Paul (and Léaud) seems impossibly young and innocent. The film remains as fresh as ever.

Today through Thursday, in a newly struck and retitled print, at the Varsity.

— Mary Brennan, Ticket editor

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