Masculin: Mozart, Marx, Bergman. Feminin: coca-cola, pop music, Elle magazine. Comparing the interests of young men to young women side by side, Godard seems to be re-enforcing social norms of the time. Boys tend towards the intellectual and the serious, while girls the shallow and trivial.
Such a reading itself proves shallow when viewed in light of the sociological techniques Godard employs in the film. As Morrey reveals, at the time of shooting Masculin Feminin Godard openly admired Sartre and Merleau-Ponty’s notion that a person’s character is not “slowly revealed over time, but was rather immediately present in a person’s acts” (Morrey 89). Godard investigates this argument by featuring a number of unscripted interviews in the film. In each interview, the male characters interrogate the female characters asking questions about socialist political theory and contraception devices. While the questions might seek to expose the shallowness of the female interviewees, instead it exposes the absurdity of the male interrogators questions. The men reveal themselves essentially as escaping the reality of the world around them by seeking a “purer” or “more just” world in the music of the past or radical political ideology. The females, however, with their admiration for pop songs and consumer products, acknowledge the reality of the consumer culture they live in.
Pop Art/Abstract Expressionist comparisons offer an interesting parallel. When one views a Pollock painting, one is asked to look beyond the frantic drizzles of paint on the canvas and see into the painter’s soul – his distress and madness. Pop art, such as Warhol’s Campbell soup cans, confronts viewers with reality of the world they live in: one of consumer products and advertisements. One gives a sense of depth in asking the viewer to look “beyond” the image; the other offers no depth in confronting the viewer with naked advertisement. The later technique asks us to critically examine the world in front of us, the former suggests there is meaning below the surface. Like Pop Art, Godard’s sociological approach forces the audience to confront a world of consumer ideology.
– Mike O'Malley