Masculine Feminine: Dutchman
I find it incredible that so soon after I read Amiri Baraka (Leroi Jones) play Dutchman I would find a homage to it in Jean-Luc Godard's film Masculine Feminine (I posted my original reaction to Dutchman in my Dialectic Humanism blog). It's hard to see the role Godard's version (or theft - you be the judge) of Dutchman has in the overall plot of Masculine Feminine. It's possible that Godard was attempting to show an example of the Black Power movement, and to group this movement with the other youthful revolutionary movements portrayed in the film.
The commentary on the revolutionary qualities of Charlie Parkers' music extends far beyond the words themselves. It brings forth questions about the price of fame, and the appropriation of the public image of the famous for causes they themselves never supported.
This contrast sharply with Madeleine's wish to be appropriated by the corporate media machine. As she happily says when asks if she is member of the Pepsi Generation by a reporter, "Oh yes, I adore Pepsi Cola." Thus giving a neatly package corporate sound bite - all the more valuable to big business since she is steadily climbing the ladder of fame. For Madeleine to exhibit such a naive willingness to except a manufactured image as her true representative is a thing of true beauty to any capitalist.
I have included a few lines of dialogue from the 'Dutchman' scene in Masculine Feminine, and from the original Dutchman play to allow you an opportunity to compare and contrasts.
BLACK MAN (off): Take Charlie Parker.
PAUL: Oh, the bitch look!
BLACK MAN: If they told him, Charlie, my boy, lay off the sax...
Paul is looking around with great concern, first at the group, then around the car, then back at the group.
A shot of a revolver in the woman's hand. Within a couple seconds she covers most of the gun with the other hand in her lap.
BLACK MAN (off): ... and you'll have the right to shoot the first ten whites ...
A tight shot of the woman, looking down, the second Black man looking at her from the right.
BLACK MAN (off): ... you see in the street, he'd have pitched his horn into the sea, and he'd never have played another note in his life, not one.
The woman has looked up at the speaker, than over at Paul and Robert.
WOMAN: What are you looking at, you punks?
A long shot from outside on the level of the train as it hurtles by. A shot rings out.
[end of Masculine Feminine excerpt]
Charlie Parker? Charlie Parker. All the hip white boys scream for Bird. And Bird saying, "Up your ass, feeble-minded ofay! Up your ass." And they sit there talking about the tortured genius of Charlie Parker. Bird would've played not a note of music if he just walked up East Sixty-seventh Street and killed the first ten white people he saw. Not a note! And I'm the great would-be poet. Yes. That's right! Poet. Some kind of bastard literature ... all it needs is a simple knife thrust. Just let me bleed you, you loud whore, and one poem vanished.
[end of Dutchman excerpt]