Friday, July 3

Women in Nouvelle Vague

I love the Nouvelle Vague, I love their portrayal of youth and political opposition, the choppy filming, sounds and narrative that reads like a lofty book and the rebellious young men, the music, the unexpected moves that are like modern novels. But one thing that irks me, is their problematic relationship to women. Truffaut, it is said, hated his mother (as evident in Les 400 ooups), and Jean-Luc Godard too must've had his troubles. The women in these films are erratic, selfish and poorly developed - they are rebellious in the Bonnie and Clyde sense - murderous, ignorant and stupid. Some are even infantile, like Odile; Elle est complètement idiote cette fille encapsulates so much of their sentiment. Or Jean Seberg as the naïve foreigner, who becomes nothing more than a criminal accomplice (like Odile). The fickle character of Chantal Goya in Masculin, féminin - and Jeanne Moreau in Jules et Jim wouldn't be so serious if she weren't entirely juxtaposed to her male counterpart's intelligence, and independence. There is so much tragedy in the throes of Pierrot le fou, but it is a two-egged sword, the misery is brought on by the woman. I miss independent women, independent, intelligent women capable of making their own decisions. The films portray tragedy, but it is a lonely madness these women are subscribed too. Of course, different from the glamourous 1950s women, doll-like in appearance, they are still not positive depictions. You could probably say a lot about how the ideal woman permeates cinema, different today from yesterday, but even though la nouvelle vague showed transition, these girls still had a long way to go.

Of course women are allowed to be mean, antagonistic - I'm not calling for entirely positive, idolising perspectives, because by all means, they are as bad! But they, or rather the 50s glamour girl, is as bad as the infantile nouvelle vague woman because she is entirely homogeneous. Women shouldn't be defined as women per se, but rather a part of humanity, with as much potential for character development as a male character. Evidently, this was barely underways in the sixties (like we all know from the misogynistic attitudes in the TV-series Mad Men). And as much as I will profess my love for le cinéma, it will be with the bitter aftertaste of anything produced before my time, lingering in stereotypes, misogynism, racism, homophobia and inequality we blush and shuffle our boots at today.

1 comment:

  1. This is such a good post. I never really knew what it was about Nouvelle Vague that bothered me, what made me feel weird, but you're right, it's the stupidity of all the women, how they represent the animal part of being human. Like Brigitte Bardot in Le Mépris, all unreasonable and primal.