Masculin Féminin
Chantal Goya - Laisse-moi (1966)

This song is even better if you've seen Godard's Masculin, Féminin. I've listened to Chantal's songs a fair bit, but only got around to seeing the film a couple of days ago - and this track hasn't left my head since. Thankfully for us non-Francophones, the lyrics are subtitled on the DVD, so you can understand their relevance to the film. 

If you're looking for a CD compilation of hers, Les Années 60 is the one you'll want. After this, she went on to a career as a children's singer. (The 'biographie' page on that site has some good pics of Chantal in the 60s. Warning: Cheesy kids' songs play when you open that site).

April March has said of Chantal:

Chantal Goya speaks to me but she doesn't to everyone. She has a very fragile voice and sometimes funny timing, which I find ultimately authentic and charming but I'm often a minority on this one.

I would agree with April on that, and if you see the film, I think Chantal's subtle charm becomes more apparent. 


EDIT: So just to continue the conversation with myself that I began in the comments, I found this review of Masculin, Féminin. This quote, in my opinion, gives a more satisfactory assessment than the quote in my comments: 

Godard is, especially here, both very classical and very radical, a Jekyll-and-Hyde who adores both pop and high culture."

This is more along the lines of what I took from it, that it was criticising the culture, but also just observing and in some way fascinated with it. 

Another excellent review is here. Damnit, why doesn't my DVD have these features? *sulking. It's a little harsh on Chantal though and again seems to read the film as voicing a total distaste for, or straight-out satirising of, her character. 

I guess the angle I was most interested in, being a former feminist studies major, was the examination of expressions of masculine and feminine identities in the social context of the era and place. I find it a bit problematic to reduce Chantal's character to a symbol of vacuousness, and a bit discrediting to Godard as a filmmaker to assume he wouldn't at the same time be exploring a valid fascination with a girl of such natural charm. Nor to assume that he wasn't deliberately highlighting the young male/female relationship dynamic by having Jean-Pierre Leaud's character comes off as somewhat boorish in his treatment of his girlfriend. 

In general, part of my own interest in the female ye-ye singers stems from my interest in different expressions of femininity, and finding a lot that's quite unique to the females of this particular cultural movement. It's hard in this day and age of vapid, sexbot-style starlets and faux girl-power female icons to actually see a character like Madeleine in this film as some type of empty bimbo that represents all that's wrong with pop culture. There's a wit, quiet intelligence and determined resolve about her. 

I'm fascinated with intelligent pop music, by which I mean songs that follow a relatively standard pop structure, and use the simplicity of this formula to strongly evoke different emotions in us, while the lyrics are not just nonsensical pap (like most chart pop). I think cheerful, celebratory music that avoids being stupid is a godsend. So I'm not taken with the somewhat institutionalised way of thinking that's seen in rockism that any expression in music that's cheerful, nice, gentle, lovely and often times female/feminine is of lesser value and of lesser intelligence. 

It's therefore of interest to me that people would read this film so readily as a trashing of Madeleine and what she stands for, and ignore that she is portrayed with some affection (at least as I perceived it). Looking at the quote from The Guardian in my comments, I'm wondering if perhaps Godard was aware of this (that she'd be seen as the 'best thing about it') and that was intended to be part of the film's 'statement' (for want of a better word right now).

*spikedcandy takes off acamademic hat*

*wakes up readers*

OK then, I'll post an adorable pic of Chantal for you to drool over/ want to imitate depending on your gender/orientation!

Masculin Féminin cover (Chantal Goya)
(Pic via Film Forward)

Oh, BTW... listen to Ladytron's 'This Is Our Sound'... the first line or couple of lines sound EXACTLY like the melody of 'Laisse-Moi'. Coincidence, or plundering of the French pop archives for top melodies to nick??

Comments (10)

  • modcentric  
    jean-pierre leaud = yum!
  • Guuzbourg  
    Hey! I was looking for this song!
  • Christine  
    I should mention that in that blurb on chantal on the April March link, she's wrong about Chantal playing herself. (I just checked imdb, and there's a film where she plays 'Chantal', perhaps that's the one Ms March was thinking of).

    If anyone cares to get into a discussion here with me, could someone who's more literate in Godard's work tell me if they'd consider this an accurate reading:
    "Jean-Luc Godard sought to show how vacuous and stupid pop music was by casting French chanteuse Chantal Goya in a film about a pop hopeful caught up in a shallow world. Unfortunately, it backfired for him when she proved to be the best thing in it." http://www.guardian.co.uk/arts/fridayreview/story/0,12102,1440145,00.html

    I did not take it as being so heavy-handed or absolute. Heh, could be my ye-ye bias and that I was hanging out for the scenes were Chantal sings. I don't know, it feels like it may as well have been called Masculin, Masculin if you're going to think the voice of the male character was the film's voice. I suspect that's a careless interpretation, unless Godard has said otherwise.
  • Suzie  
    I very much agree with the comment about Chantal's timing. I love 'Mon Ange Gardian' (excuse my French spelling), but she's ahead and behind the beat at the oddest times. But I can't get the song out of my head!
    Thank you for the heads up on the film. I've seen a few Godard films, but not that one.
    • Christine  
      Yes, I like her funny timing - it sounds like she's in her own little world.
  • france la gale  
    maybe you all know this : one of the b-side of an april march vinyl is a cover of "mon ange gardien" , it s beautiful. and she also sings a song called "chantal and mickey" on her first album on tricatel , where she says lovely words about chantal : "est-ce qu'elle se doute que quelqu un l ecoute ?" could she know that someone is listening to her ?" how sweet ...........
    • Christine  
      i have the album but it didn't click that the song's about chantal. thanks for that translation, they are lovely words indeed. i hadn't heard her 'mon ange gardien' cover, but just listened to it. it's quite good, but i have to say - probably my least favourite cover of hers. just one of those covers that doesn't add enough to it, and makes me want to listen to the original instead. i would've liked to hear her take it in a different direction, make the melody more power-pop like she has with some others. just not really fond of her voice in that fragile melody.
      • france la gale  
        i think it s because i heard first "mon ange gardien" by april march and was so found of it , then bought chantal goya , and realized it was a 60's song . but yeah i could imahine a great power pop cover ! Chantal .... when i was 8 years old , in school , they taught us "les jolies madras" , a song bout a teacher leaving the childern from la martinique coming back to france.. i think it s early 80's sweet ballad. very nice
        • Christine  
          yeah i can imagine if i heard it first i would have loved it, but i just love the original so much. i normally love april's covers and they don't take away from the originals, but this one just didn't work for me.
          Are you from France? I've often wondered whether French children had to learn the same songs I learnt in French class... 'la port, la port, c'est loin?', 'avec mon panier' etc ... torture :D
          • france la gale  
            yes i m french and i dont recognize the songs you talk about :) i used to teach french for a year to children fron immigration, mostly maroc and algeria , and i used to teach them "tous les garcons et les filles de mon age" by francoise hardy . so funny to see them singing francoise in the playground as all the other kids were only listening to french hip hop ( it was in paris suburbia where the riots begun ... )

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