Film Critique: Une Femme est Une Femme (A Woman Is A Woman) 1961.

As of today I have begun a series of Film Reviews critiquing the methods, shape, and stories of some of the films produced throughout the history of cinema. I was caught between many minds on how I should proceed but eventually concluded that a nod to who I would argue is the greatest living director would be an apt starting point. “A Woman is a Woman” is far from the pinnacle opus of Godard’s career (at least in the world of criticism) in cinema but in the nature of being his first film in colour as well as his first film in CinemaScope, it earmarks an amicable cornerstone in the development of his becoming an ‘auteur’.

a-woman-is-a-woman

The film is widely regarded a musical as well as a romantic comedy but I would like to assert the prerequisite that I do not consider this to be a musical, although it certainly pertains musical traits (as seen for example, in the scene akin to the image above). The film is filled to the brim with the fantastical visions of Angela (Anna Karina) and the fusion of her realities with her fantasies. This is most humorously consummated by Angela’s entertainment as a stripper to be performed in the opus of a musical that had been choreographed by Bob Fosse. The character dynamics of the film are extremely similar to those of Jules et Jim, a film which was directed by his friend at the time, François Truffaut, of which Godard provides a few references to in the middle of A Woman is A Woman. 

At it’s thematic core, A Woman is A Woman addresses the perpetual battle between man and woman that has been present in all platforms in the history of art. However, what is so uniquely adorning about Godard’s film is the way he approaches the topic with a simplistic, playful charm characteristic of how perhaps a child might approach such a subject. This approach could be considered as ground-breaking in the history of cinema through the new wave as abstract art or surrealism has been to painting.  It is a well-accepted dogma of the cinephile that Godard became an example of the ‘auteur’ theory through the unique ability to break down the dialogue of his characters to a childish, simple and brusque manner. This is a notable trait throughout his films but one example that illustrates this best is the last line of the picture in which Angela and Emile are in bed and have just made love when she asks “Why are you laughing?” and Emile replies “Because you are shameless” then Angela responds with “Me? Am I not A Woman?” and then turns to the camera: “I am a woman”. There is a raw and innocuous essence to that last line that pronounces the unique “authorship” of Godard’s work, it’s simple yet somewhat poetic and in this film is even playful and cheerful. 

Watching any Godard movie has the bizarre quality of being able to recognise the influence in modern movies right there while you are watching it. ‘A Woman is A Woman’ is no different most notably in the form of Amelie, which adopted Godard’s fast-paced, innocent charm and applied it to modern cinematic methodology whilst Wes Anderson too can be seen to have found a great deal of influence in the film. One shot in particularly had Wes Anderson written all over it in which Jean-Paul Belmondo’s character was running back-and-forth from two windows on a roof (pictured below). The wide-angle shot combined by the 2D presentation of the building would be characteristic of a classic Anderson image had it been produced in the modern day. Anderson’s film ‘The Royal Tenenbaum’s came to mind within an instant during my screening of the film.

In summation, my consenus on the film is that it is a wonderfully joyful and playful movie that holds much greater significance in the development of Godard’s career than it is perhaps given credit for. Many director’s have films which weren’t hugely financially or commercially successful but were considered more experimental technically and I view this as one of those films, however, it still maintains a commendable status nonetheless. I give it a 7.5/10.

– imperrin

For further discussion @ianmperrin 

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