By 1966, Jean-Luc Godard was the New Wave's premier prankster-ideologue and pop-culture deconstructionist. After sharpening his teeth on Contempt, Band of Outsiders, and Alphaville among a coruscating burst of titles that began with 1960's Breathless, Godard rapidly found his voice in the form of the guerilla-style cinema manifesto. Masculine Feminine, about the dysfunctional romance between a young would-be militant and a budding pop star whose blithe pursuit of fame represents everything he hates about capitalism, comes together in a series of 15 loosely-connected vignettes--or "precise chapters" as Godard calls them. Intertitles, often accompanied by gunshots, read like politically-charged maxims and divide these "chapters" and lend the movie an aura of immediacy at once jarring and hilarious, because they raise what is, at heart, the story of a doomed romance into the realm of Marxist allegory. That sounds incredibly pretentious, but this is Godard -- an artist with a knack for exposing intellectual pretense for the vain tomfoolery that it is, and where the most intimate exchanges are booby-trapped by self-parody and non-sequiturs. In Godard's world, human relationships are negotiations for political power and fertile ground for his brand of deadpan formal antics.

Plot-wise, this is refreshingly simple stuff. Paul (Jean-Pierre Léaud), a spray can-toting socialist in 1960s Paris, spends his time rallying against all things American, when he falls head-over-heals for Madeleine (played by real-life yé yé singer Chantal Goya), a pretty but clueless brunette on the verge of commercial breakthrough (she's already burning up the charts in Japan). Broke and evicted, Paul moves in with Madeleine and her roommates, Elizabeth and Catherine (Marléne Jobert and Catherine-Isabelle Duport), where he continues his attempts to reconcile his disapproval of Madeleine's money-driven dreams with his deep-seated hankering to get it on with her.

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