- Cinematographer and Editor
- JY-AH MIN
- Production Assistants
San Diego, California, 2004. Two roommates in a time of war. In the midst of Bush's re-election, Youtube does not yet exist and people are beginning to link themselves on Facebook. The iPhone is just around the corner and more and more folks are awakening to the reality of “iPod therefore I am.” What are the grandchildren of 'The Children of Marx and Coca-Cola' up to? Not a remake of Masculin Féminin but a remix of it.
In 2003, I found a dvd of Masculin Féminin and managed to watch it despite its wrong region code and no English subtitles. My French was not good enough to understand everything but I didn’t care. I wanted to know what all the hype was about and I was curious about its tricks.
Then when the title came on the screen with the first sound of the “bang!” I got hooked. I was struck by its stylistic structure and playfulness, its play on quotations and the documentary aspect of Paris and its flirtatious youth. I didn’t care to understand every word of it... I saw what mattered in Godard’s aesthetic: clever gestures of texts as images and images as quotations; his well known puppetry of actors; classical framing; and all of the above punctuated by his aggressiveness in the editing room.
By the time I finished the film, I was not only impressed by it, I was convinced that there was something about Masculin Féminin that was very close to the times we lived in. Paris, 1960s, Vietnam War sounds so far away from Southern California, 2004, Iraq War but for me it felt very close to home. I sensed that Masculin Féminin spoke a kind of audio visual language that my peers could instinctively relate to and so I wanted to explore why that is.
With all this in mind, Jean-Pierre Gorin and I began discussions about what an update of this film would be like. And what started out as a casual conversation soon transformed my interest into an obsession. I just couldn’t stop imagining what it would sound like, look like and move like. In a way, it reopened my eyes and ears to all that was around me: the Southern California suburbs, its isolation, the presidential elections, my own roommates, the constant buzz of the TV, the internet, the Iraq war... everything was game for rumination.
Within a few weeks, I began renting with a few good friends, a modest, nondescript apartment in the suburbs of San Diego. And by 2004, I had a small working camera in hand trying to figure out how to capture all the pieces of the puzzle.Why did you choose to insert sequences of Masculin Féminin? What kind of differences could exist between a simple remake and the formula you propose, the remix?
The most obvious answer is because I had to give the audience immediate access to the past in order to establish a critical distance around the present. I wanted to make sure that M/F Remix could be watched without prerequisites and that all the necessary elements were a part of the film.
But having said that, it wasn’t just a matter of inserting excerpts from Masculin Féminin for comparison. The real challenge was figuring out how to appropriate the borrowed footage within the new context of M/F Remix.
Using the sequences of Masculin Féminin meant rethinking the concepts of ‘quoting’ and ‘paying homage’. Both terms imply that the borrowed segments somewhat retain its original context and meaning. But growing up listening to HipHop had me spinning in a different direction. The rule was to use quotations as a launch pad. I could take off from it, but I didn’t always have to land in the same place. That was the simple principle of this remix. In a remake, you try to preserve the main intentions of the original work. In a remix you can deconstruct the original work and just use an aspect of it to create an entirely different form and meaning.
There was also another reason for using Godard’s footage. It was a matter of aesthetic. I needed to place the looks of the past next to the present. There was a risk of making my own digital footage look lame in comparison to Masculin Féminin’s sharp, film look. But I felt that the risk was necessary because M/F Remix is not just ‘about’ youth, but made by youth. It required confronting the aesthetic of the tools now commonly accessible to us. So with that necessity came the obligation to push the capabilities of the consumer DV camcorder, maximizing the range of its possibilities. The goal was to create a well framed digital aesthetic that could stand on its own next to Masculin Féminin’s film look. I wanted the digital image to be unapologetic and not trying to be something that it’s not. It was lit differently and its weaknesses had to be used as a quality of its aesthetic. This meant stretching and straining the fragility of its light schemes in B&W and experimenting until the image literally (digitally) fell apart.Godard's film is very talkative, while yours is rather taciturn.
It’s true that Masculin Féminin is more explicit in dealing with its subject. Perhaps it is because Godard made that film as a well established filmmaker. He was conscious of his public and the necessity to outwardly articulate his contemplations about youth. This was a very different situation for me, since my project began as a personal experiment. It was supposed to be a dialogue between myself and Masculin Féminin. And as such, M/F Remix is much more introspective and works its way through the materials silently. In short, I had to reflect on the notion of youth, not from the outside looking in, but from the inside looking out.The film begins as a letter to Jean-Luc Godard, then this aspect disappears to become a chronicle of modern youth.
Yes, the film begins with a self-reflexive, rhetorical question aimed at Godard: “We know Coca-cola but who da hell is Marx?” The rest of the film is about creating a space to give the viewers the time to assess this very question imposed on the characters of Mimi and Philip.What role had the music in the composition of the film ?
During the most difficult moments of the editing, I found inspiration in HipHop, Jazz, Indi and Electronica Music. I learned a lot by listening to the complex musical compositions of artists like Missy Elliot, DJ Shadow, Radiohead and the Nortec Collective. And artists like the Books, the Microphones, Four Tet, and Daft Punk were crafting sounds of ordinary objects into extraordinary compositions. I noticed how they all encountered the same challenge of recombining multiple textures and content styles into a single track. Their mixing solutions of layering, looping and using counter beats gave me plenty of ideas about how to apply that to M/F Remix. And in fact I thought that these techniques were surprisingly close to some of Godard’s editing techniques in Masculin Féminin and the moves of the Dziga Vertov Group as well.Why are the only images in color the teleshopping and the mangas?
What appears to be mangas are actually Chinese American Yellow Pages. The rest of the materials you see in the factory are common advertisements for groceries, toys, etc.
There are colors used all throughout the film. For instance, there’s color when Mimi is in the bathtub and also at the beginning of the Activism scene. And from time to time, multi color bands aggressively seep in and out of scenes and images.
But, I want to stress that M/F Remix is primarily a Black & White film. Therefore, the colors in the film are only used to accentuate and to dramatize the logic of the Black&White footage. The color bands in particular have multiple functions. In addition to its use as a digital texture, it also functions with musicality, creating rhythms and interruptions to the flow of a particular moment in the film.There is some kind of paradox in this film : you say « Nothing new in the western front » while you make a big list of all the new medias, social types, events. So, what has changed ?
That phrase was obviously intended to be somewhat ironic. I say somewhat because we can list the details that have changed since the 60s but ultimately, in the big picture, the grand children of Marx and Coca-cola are still operating in a mode that is not so different from our grand parent’s generation. We now experience the extreme end of the buyer, consumer, leisure logic. Godard’s interview of a “consumer product” looks very mild in comparison to human billboards tattooing ads on their physical bodies to persons renting out a year of their life as a video game character and so on. There’s also something to be said about our hyper sexualized world, where sex sells and is now openly incorporated into everything we look, hear and touch. In Masculin Féminin there’s context of the beginnings of the sexual revolution and a quick mention of the future with sexual devices for pleasure. But now as we all know, these devices and ideas are rather common place. We now live in a world where we can purchase flavored condoms and dildos in the color of our preference and buy books like, Kamasutra for Dummies.
I’m saying all this though, without dismissing the importance of the events of ‘68 all around the world. I am not saying that nothing has changed. The events that took place soon after Masculin Féminin (1966) clearly shook the world. Many progressive social and structural changes have taken place because of it. But it also ushered in a world of conservatism and consent. In fact, many of the policies and changes that took place as a reaction to the violent and tumultuous events of the 60s tried to limit any kind of opposition and uproar against governments and institutions. My peers and I were born into politically conservative times, where we were told to excel within the structures of our society, but discouraged to question the framework itself. And so the notion of change now seems abstract and activism is frowned upon. We live in a time where presidents are urging us to go out and spend more money to help our country.
One of the slogans from a poster of May ’68 was “Sois Jeune et Tais Tois!” Be young and shut up. I know that it was a slogan meant to be ironic for the students of the May ’68 movement, but now, I think that slogan applies to my generation in a literal way.What is the « search » the film mentions ?
The search in the film embodies many things. The characters, Mimi and Philip are in search of something they themselves do not know. They seek happiness but they don’t know what it is. They experience a kind of quarter life crisis but cannot figure out how they got to feeling the blues. So instead of taking action, they just exist. They do not ask questions, they just observe. They do not resist, they just contemplate. And as you see in the film, Mimi and Philip end up wandering around in a metaphoric landscape in search of a ‘method’. The answer they seek is a ‘method of understanding and clarity’. A method that can help to explain the logic and function of living with an overwhelming sense of too much information accessible at our fingertips.
And so the answer to the search lands on a tableaux vivant of the painting, The Gleaners by Jean-François Millet. It is a direct reference to The Gleaners and I of Agnés Varda. And as in her film, we’re all modern gleaners of one type or another and the answer to understanding our mode of operation has now to do with how and what we choose to glean on our own terms.The first part of the film is a the diary of a mourning, a bitter elegy of the present's lacks in comparison with the sixties; but after, the film becomes a manual of modern resistance, for the non-resistant people you showed before. Why this shifting ?
The first half of the film is about describing the mundanities of youth. I wanted to take the cliches about youth and flip it on its head. It was important to give the audience the distance, time and space to observe what they wear, how they speak, what they speak about and what kind of images and sounds they surround themselves with. Rather than condemning these characters for being too ordinary, I wanted to capture and justify their realities. And in an effort to do that, I had to construct an aesthetic that negotiates the way we experience our lives as youth in real time. Of course that time is highly fictionalized but at its core there is a documentary intention.
I think the shift you mention takes place when the film takes on a stronger interior voice. The shift exists because it wasn’t enough to just say “Sois Jeune et Tais Toi!” It’s true that we are lost and unclear about a lot of things, but there’s a lot more going on below the surface. I think the election of Obama certainly revealed some aspects of that. Regardless of how the viewers want to pin down the characters of Mimi and Philip, I think they’re far more productive and sophisticated than how they might appear. I think scholars and historians have a hard time pinning a name for our generation because of that.
Myriam El Haik
Fabrizio Rat Ferrero
Please check out our show dates and locations at: http://www.bafici.gov.ar/home11/web/es/films/show/v/id/148.html
Screening dates and locations are listed at: http://caam.gala-engine.com/2011/films-events/film/110/
Both the film and the lecture will be streaming live: http://culturadigital.br/forum2010/?s=M%2FF+Remix
8th MORELIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL www.moreliafilmfest.com/en
VIENNALE 2010: VIENNA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL http://www.viennale.at/
Our trailer is now available on Youtube