Repo Man & Masculin Feminin

by James Toplis and Alaine Yap

Repo Man 1984

Alex Cox

Before watching the film…

Here’s the trailer:

 

A tip before watching this film is to be prepared to laugh at the most ridiculous things. Repo Man is a film most relatable to the youth – how they are, how they think, how they act, what they go through. But it doesn’t only portray a particular kind of youth, it shows different kinds. For sure you’ll find the characters interesting.

Hearing this, it might seem that Repo Man is like any other youth culture film. Watching the movie at first may seem shallow and pointless, but there are actually some underlying points to it and why such story is told. It doesn’t only talk about the youth culture, it also talks about religion, and nuclear war (take note this film was made in the 1980s). These are serious topics that are subtly incorporated in the film.

Don’t worry. It’s not a boring film. Like I said, it’s funny. Even if you don’t look for the important points, you’ll enjoy it as it is.

I’d advise you to listen closely to the dialogues, because some of them will actually make the movie more enjoyable when puns or jokes are made along the way. Also, forgive the quality of the effects. You’ll eventually learn to appreciate it as it adds to the hilarity of it all and your own movie experience.

The after experience…

Repo Man is a teen punk movie of angst and rebelliousness. The movie presents a picture of punk youth and how they act in a world dominated by consumerism. The film centers on Otto, a teenage punk rebel, and his misadventures as he becomes a repo man.

The movie presents society and its citizens in a sort of exaggerated way. Otto’s parents become obsessed over their television in such a grave manner that they barely even give him attention and even admit to Otto that they have donated their money to a tv preacher; this satirizes a society that worships the media. To mock the way most people seem to center their world on material objects, the movie shows that all consumer products available are generically branded. The movie also mocks the easily appeased culture of teenagers when the punks decide to cause chaos by eating at a sushi restaurant without paying.

The movie also takes a look at a troubled teenager with the relationship between Otto and Bud. Although we see Otto partake in activities such as drinking and doing drugs (with Bud!), as the film progresses, we see Otto’s appearance slowly change. At first, he is sporting the punk rock look, but as  he spends more and more time as a repo man, interacting with Bud as well as the other repo men, his attire begins becoming much more mature until eventually he is wearing a shirt with a coat and even removing his earring. As Bud presents a positive father figure to Otto, he slowly starts maturing, a common story associated with rebel teens. His maturation goes on further when he confronts his old punk friends and Duke gets shot. He exclaims to Otto that society had made him a punk but Otto chastises him and calls him a “white suburban punk, just like me.” This shows how he has accepted who he is and how he was found his identity and what kind of person he wants to be in life.

Otto’s development continues further when he becomes a symbol of anti-consumerism when he drives away in the radioactive Malibu. When the bounty of the car goes up to $20,000, it becomes a coveted item amongst the people, mimicking society’s desire for new, unique and expensive things. In the end though, it is Otto and Miller who win the prize of the Malibu and fly away, leaving the consumer-based society behind them. Otto’s job of repossessing the cars of people too caught up in a consumerist world to have time for their payments as well as Miller’s rejection of driving a car, claiming he will become dumber, shows how the two are against society’s current form. In one of the film’s most iconic scenes, the two characters have a sort of philosophical discussion about the “plate of shrimp” phenomena. There is even a later scene in the film where a flyer that says “plate-o-shrimp” becomes visible for the camera.

 

This conversation between the characters show in a twisted way productivity a person not bound by their consumerist society, with their actions finally bearing fruit in the end when they get their prize of riding the radioactive car.

Masculin Feminin 1966

Jean-Luc Godard

Before watching this film…

Here’s the trailer:

 

The movie Masculin Feminin is a film that tries to portray the youth of Paris through the use of “15 precise facts”. The film shows the audience the life of young Parisians and how they interact with each other in our capitalist, pop culture world. Before watching the film, it would be useful to know that Masculin Feminin is a movie highly rich in duality. This is evident in the title alone and translates to the two main characters of the film.

The masculine character, Paul, is portrayed as someone who is high-spirited and frequently rants on about politics, wars and capitalism. The feminine of the film, Madeline, is a bit delicate, likes to shop and dreams of one day becoming a pop star. The characters’ duality continues further when looking closely at their personalities, showing that they may not be all that they seem. The main characters of the film are even called “children of Marx and Coca Cola”, showing another duality to their character. The theme of duality would be present throughout the movie with the interaction of the characters as well as the environments and sounds. The film in its entirety presents youth culture to the youth. It aims to show how different facets of the youth act and their opinions and beliefs about what was currently going on in their world.

The after experience…

When I first saw Masculin Feminin I was so bothered by the random texts and gunshots suddenly coming out of nowhere from the film. The way it was filmed as well was unconventional. The long focus on one character’s face just talking and doing the same thing over and over again is very bothersome for me. But all these oddness aside, the story in Masculin Feminin is quite interesting. A boy-meets-girl story but doesn’t really end with a “happily ever after” and there are more discussions not just about their relationship, but about Marx and the Coca-Cola generation as well.

The tile itself ‘Masculin Feminin’ already tells you what the movie will be about. The technicality of the terms used gives you the idea that the film will talk about the two different sexes. The film presents you with 2 main characters, Paul and Madeleine, both shown with different personalities and aspirations.

Paul was portrayed as young lad who just came from military service, very vocal about his views on politics and what’s going on around, a bad-ass committing petty crimes against the military – a typical boy.

Madeleine was shown as the girl who’s demure, shy, always bothering about how she looks, and having a dream of becoming a pop star.

Just from those we can already see the bias on the male character. But Godard gave us an irony. As the film progresses, Paul becomes the “weak” one.

There are other characters in the film that tries to highlight the inferiority of women. The interview Paul had with Miss Nineteen, Dialogue With A Consumer Product, showed how she’s all beauty in the surface and can talk about consumer related topics, but when it comes to what’s happening to the world, politics and such, she’s dumbfounded. This is what was meant by the Coca-Cola generation – “too caught up in capitalist consumption and too uninterested in the human condition.”

But Godard did not mean for this film to look down upon women. On the contrary, it’s interesting the way Godard made this film and set-up his characters. Madeleine may be seem shallow up front but she’s the one who’s really struggling to reach her ambition, she’s more radical i.e. being bisexual, whilst Paul just seems to be all talk and no action when it comes to his beliefs. Other characters like Catherine, who’s shown as being very well-read, and Elizabeth, who is Madeleine’s bisexual partner, also adds to Godard’s experiment of genders.

One of my own favorite scenes was when Paul asks Madeleine out on a date. The way the camera just focuses on one character for a long time really adds up to the pressure of the whole “dance”. But what really amused me was the dialogue between the two. It was so blatant, so absurd to even think of saying outright, “By going out, do you mean going to bed?” This was where Paul was placed under the spotlight. Similar to how he showed Miss Nineteen’s lack of intelligence in politics and the human condition when he interviewed her, Paul was left dumbfounded when asked about sex.

It’s commendable the way Godard demonstrated the faces of the two genders. Masculin Feminin is definitely a mind-churning film. Something you’d appreciate even more every time you watch it.

Ironic that this film was made about the youth but was not allowed to be viewed by them.

Films About Youth Culture

The two films present the youth and their culture but are not necessarily about the youth. The films are both about society and its citizens and makes use of youthful characters and their reactions to the world around them. Through this, the movies present youth culture in a unique way.

When watching Masculin Feminin, you will notice how the characters speak out against capitalism and politics, going so far as to spray paint messages on walls as well as seeing random acts of violence. This in a way relates to Repo Man’s presentation of the anti-establishment punk youth and their own brand of anarchistic violence such as buying sushi and not paying. Paul and Madeleine perfectly showed what youth culture was in Masculin Feminin simply because Godard intended for them to “be themselves”. He did not direct them on how they should act out the scenes; instead he was the one learning from them. This film, in itself, is simply a film genuinely filled with youth.

Repo Man and Masculin Feminine obviously circle around the lives of teenagers, portraying youth culture. In Repo Man, we’ve taken a look of youth culture through the eyes of an eighteen year old. Otto was a punk trying to show the world that no one’s the boss of him, the other characters like Otto’s friends who kept on committing petty crimes were just some more examples of the youth shown that are affected by society. Watching the film, we see the world through Otto’s eyes, which is probably why the concept of aliens was there in the first place.

We’re sort of showed the concern that the youth have and their stand on things on both films. They showed how youth approaches sex, their take on authority, their dreams and aspirations for the future, how they voice out their opinions and take out their aggressions. We’re shown fresh young adults and how they are, unscathed yet by the conditions of life, in these two magnificent films.

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