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A Woman is a Woman belongs to the period when Godard was playful,
uninhibited and really a wild child of the movies. So when he made a
musical, in fact he made a childish and free imitation of a musical
that at the same time showed, in an Godardian analytic way, how the
Hollywood musicals usually depict life and love. In the film characters
love and evade committing to love at the same time. There is music by
Legrand and spontaneous looking movements which are aspirations to
dance but at the same some oblique realism is at work. As with Godard,
fantasy and realism interact in a dialectical way so that both seem
indistinguishable after a while.
The trio of Brialy, Belmondo and Karina is great but Karina is obviously unique in that she makes the whole subject of performance seem out of place. She is there playing innocent, dumb, inviting, sad etc. and again at the same time she seems NOT THERE as though her mind is some place else. Her big eyes work and shine all the time but they don't give away the character. There is no argue about Godard's style which after so many years and so many innovations in the language of film has remained fresh and unsurpassed in vitality and an acute understanding of "Films as Games" or rather "Life depicted as a game within a game". However watching A Woman is a Woman after some years I still wonder at the their cinematic child: Acting as a sort of being there and being free to feel the film, breathing the air of movies. The plot is as unimportant as it can be. In its place moments show up, little but infinitely joyful moments of adults looking like teenagers amused and fascinated by the thought of being in a musical comedy. Was Godard the biggest daydreamer of the cinema or what?
This movie is often advertised as a musical. It's not. It's Jean-Luc Godard's world, filled with vibrant blues and reds, bogaurd cigarettes, and cinema fantasies, shown through the eyes of Anna Karina. Karina plays a stripper, but unlike the other girls, she dances and sings as if she were in a musical choreographed by Bob Fosse. Raoul Cotard's cinerama camera follows her through Paris as we expiriance her flirtation's with her lover's best friend (played by Jean Paul Belamondo who also costars with Karina in 'Pierette le Fou' and starred in Godard's first film, A bout de scoffule) and argues with her lover about whether they should have a child and how awful the opposite sex is. They love eachother deeply, but can't stand eachother. In my experiance this IS love...or the closest thing humans can get to love. Godard keeps us completley out of the film by constantly reminding us that THIS IS A FILM. Anna Karina winks at the camera, breaks into song, the actors are staged unrealistically. This is what makes Jean-Luc Godard great. No matter how hard he tried to obtain realism in his first film, it was still a film and this is one of Godard's subliminal messages to the audience. Fun, charming, cinematic, and beautiful--a woman is a woman is a fine piece of cinema.
For me, Godard is easily the greatest living filmmaker; the most
radical and revolutionary, one of the few director's whose work is so
defiant, unique and idiosyncratic that he can go without credit on some
of his greatest films - Weekend (1967) and Hélas pour moi (1993) to
name just two - and yet, the work is always distinctive, exciting and
immediately identifiable. Une femme est une femme (1961) was Godard's
first film in colour and also his first in cinema scope, and he uses
both of these devises to the fullest of their capabilities. As a
result, it is one of the most important films of his career, sowing the
seeds of creativity that would give way to later films like Le Mepris
(1963), Pierrot le fou (1965) and La Chinoise (1967), and in the
process creating a unique and entertaining film that rewards repeated
viewings, whilst simultaneously remaining true to the filmmaker's
progressive, cinematic intent. Like much of Godard's earlier work, the
preoccupations here are almost entirely referential. He's still trying
to revolutionise the format somewhat - playing with codes and
conventions, simplifying character and narrative to an almost ironic
degree and creating the drama from an accumulation of scenes - but
there is also something more playful going on alongside a genuine love
of cinema that is all too often overshadowed by the cynicism in his
more recent work, such as Slow Motion (1980) and the underrated In
Praise of Love (2001).
At first glance, the story of Une femme est une femme would seem to be incredibly sweet; a play on relationship difficulties and notions of love, honour and friendship wrapped up in the eternal battle of the sexes in a way that makes for great, light-hearted farce. However, on closer inspection, the giddy production design and typically imaginative use of mise-en-scene seem to be presenting a number of abstractions that draw our eye away from the deeper themes behind the film and the characters that are introduced. Like Jean Pierre Jeunet's Amélie (2001), the colourful format and child-like games being played by both character and filmmaker alike seem to be hiding darker notions that point towards ideas of loneliness, emasculation and dissatisfaction. With this in mind, we must ask ourselves if Godard's playful references and elements of sardonic pastiche are intended to be seen as something chic, or are they instead more in tune with the escapism presented by a film like Lars von Trier's Dancer in the Dark (2000), in which musical sequences and the air of American melodrama is used as an exit point for the hopelessness of the central character.
With this interpretation it is important to look at the character of Angela, a strip-club artist in a tempestuous relationship with the cold and chauvinistic Emile. Angela delights in playing games with Emile and with the audience as well; acting out her existence as if trapped between the continually juxtaposing worlds of the sitcom and the Hollywood musical as a desperate attempt to derive a simple sense of pleasure from a life that seems entirely joyless. She believes her relationship with Emile can be salvaged by the birth of a child, but when Emile seems unwilling and unaccommodating she turns to his best friend Alfred and begins yet another duplicitous game between the two. This throws something of a shadow over the character of Angela, her name itself creating an ironic juxtaposition as she plays the two men off against each other in an attempt to get what she wants. These issues would appear in subsequent Godard films, from Vivre sa vie (1962) to Slow Motion, with the depiction of women as performers, and indeed, women as prostitutes, seemingly allowing themselves to be put-upon in an attempt to get what they really want. Unsurprisingly, these are serious themes and issues with real dramatic weight that could, in the hands of a lesser filmmaker, have been used to mine a path of social-realist melodrama. Godard is more shrewd than that and presents the film as a carefree farce that is continually undercut by the distancing and distracting use of both audio and visual experimentation.
Despite the darker and more despairing thematic issues presented by the script, the tone of the film and the central performance from Anna Karina as Angela is undoubtedly bubbly, with its vibrant conversations, imaginative use of role playing and blithe musical interludes. However, the film is still reliant on Godard's iconic use of early deconstructive elements, with jarring and dissonant bursts of music, random jump cuts, provocative inter-titles filled with sardonic wit and devious puns, and the appropriation of numerous genre characteristics and stylistic cross-references to offset the story at its most basic level. Regardless of such personal interpretations, the film works just as well if taken at face value, with the boundless energy and imagination of Godard and his crew, the playful references to Truffaut and the relationship between the burgeoning French New Wave and its roots in Hollywood B-pictures, and the fantastic performances from Karina, Jean-Claude Brialy and Jean-Paul Belmondo.
Without question, Une femme est une femme could be seen as Godard's first true masterpiece. It is funny, witty, clever and insightful - filled with imaginative vignettes and the infectious sense of joie de vivre that only great film-making can present - whilst beneath the surface we find all manner of hidden depths and avenues of interpretation that remind us of the filmmaker's particular sense of genius. Regardless of your interpretation, the final moments of Une femme est une femme, with that devilish last line, visual pun and wink to the camera is a masterstroke from Godard; one that works within the context of the film as a frothy attempt at jovial farce, whilst simultaneously reinforcing the darker side of Angela's character and the empty life that she leads. As the character herself proclaims halfway through; "I don't know if this is comedy or tragedy... but it is a masterpiece".
Absolutely beautiful. I loved every minute of this piece. The Color. Anna Karina. The opening scenes. The closing scenes. The concept. Whenever I think of Godard, I think of Anna Karina singing in the cabaret about her beauty. If you consider yourself a fan of Godard, French New Wave, musicals (although coming into seeing this, i was expecting quite a different type of musical, a more American version, which it wasn't) or just film in general, this is a must see. Godard holds a huge influence over todays films, i.e. Wes Anderson's work. I love seeing Anna Karina walking into the coffee shop, past the traffic, from the drab looking outside, ordering coffee, and leaving. I am so happy that Mr. Godard is still making films today, what a gift.
This is a Jean-Luc Godard musical-comedy, which sounds like a contradiction in terms, a fact which he himself acknowledged. The wide-screen color cinematography by Raoul Coutard is amazing, and the experiments with color are lovely. Anna Karina is incredibly pretty and rather too self-consciously adorable; Jean-Claude Brialy is suavely understated, and Jean-Paul Belmondo is certainly exuberant. There's a lot to recommend, even if it's far from the most successful of early Godard films.
It's always fascinating to watch Godard operate outside of his
beloved gangster/noir thing, just to see if he can he do it- or how he'll do
it. "A Woman Is A Woman" not only proves he has a flair for romantic
comedy, but that he has made quite an extraordinary one. This movie is so
charming and funny that it puts the assembly-line Hollywood romantic
comedies to shame.
I've never thought Anna Karina was a great actress, but she is a good one, plus has the added benefit of a natural beauty and presence on-camera that really makes a star a star. She is a one-of-a-kind performer, and her lilting, flitting style fits remarkably well with Godard's roving camera in this light-headed, light-hearted story about a young girl working as a stripper who desperately wants to have a baby with her boyfriend Emile (Jean-Claude Brialy).
But the thing that sets the film apart from others in this mostly trite genre is Godard's unique style: the use of on-screen graphics to give insights into the character's motives, the all-too-sly speaking directly to the camera, the stop-start of the film's scoring, the accentuation of moments and dialogue by music which is extremely well-done. I loved the scene where Karina and Brialy, "not speaking", speak to each other with book notes, concluding in "all women to the firing squad". His conception of the Zodiac club is hilarious; it might be the tamest strip club in world history (it looks like a little Italian restaurant). And Godard is an absolute genius at writing small talk that sounds interesting and funny. It is a rare gift, and he doesn't get enough credit for it. In a genre like romantic comedy, where the subject matter is so trivial, to be able to sustain an entire motion picture just on small talk is no small accomplishment.
I highly recommend this picture for fans of good romantic comedy-it might be the best ever of this type. "A Woman Is A Woman" may be lightweight as Godard's films go, but it's exceptional as well. 3 *** out of 4
Yet Godard made some films which were more intelligent (or included more
intelligent people), this one is definitely one of the funniest. Parodizing
some aspects of the genre of musical comedy, there is not very much singing
and dancing performed on screen, but the dialogues and actions are often
quite absurd, or exaggerated, or not quite realistic, just like a song in a
This is why at times it seems that Anna Karina's character is a little dumb, whereas in some dialogues she reminded me of Brigitte Bardot in Le mépris, who is cruel but not at all stupid. Convincing characters are not the most important thing in Une femme est une femme.
Playful camera work, playful use of music. A short and entertaining Godard film (really!), which nevertheless provides masses of material to be interpreted by New Wave lovers.
Okay, it might not be Godard's most accessible film, but it certainly is
most delightful. And although not without cynicism, it's also probably his
least cynical film. It keeps his traditional theme of people never being
able to relate to one another, that effective communication is almost
impossible, however it does it in such a fun, lighthearted way. It's an
homage to the MGM-style musical's of the 40's and 50's, but not in any
conventional way. I don't know. All in all I think it's a beautiful,
exuberant picture and perhaps my favourite Godard film other than
"Contempt", and certainly not as depressingly sad. Or maybe it
Godard is beginning to grow on me. Maybe it's because I'm watching his
films from the sixties, made when I was a teenager in France, and the
nostalgia appeals to me. Maybe it's because his work seems free and
easy, uncontrived, almost amateurish compared to some other famous film
makers. Or maybe it's just that I like this particular pretty girl he
She is pretty, gangly Anna Karina starring as Angela, an exotic dancer who is madly in love and wants to have a baby. Godard has a lot of fun with her, encouraging her to mug for the camera, getting her to do movements that cause her to trip and look not just gangly and very young like a pre-adolescent, but even clumsy--and then to leave the shots in the film, probably telling her, "This is a comedy. You need to be not just beautiful, but funny, warm, vulnerable." Karina does manage a lot of vulnerability. Her exotic act including her singing is...well, there are usually only a handful of customers in the joint and so her skills are probably appropriately remunerated. Again this is intentional since Godard wants her to be just an ordinary girl without any great talent, someone with whom the girls in the audience can identify. But the irony is that the girl must needs be at least pretty. Karina is more than pretty. She is exquisite with her long shapely limbs and her gorgeous countenance.
One of the compelling nostalgic elements is the way women did their eyes in the sixties: so, so overdone! Although I thought that look was oh so sexy then, today I would like to clean the blue, blue--or is it purple?--eye shadow and the black, black mascara off of Karina's face and see her au naturel! But it is the sixties in Paris--Gay Paree, Paris in the Spring, the City of Light! Well, 1960 to be exact, which really is more like the fifties than the sixties if you know what I mean. Everything is so innocent, Ike still in the American White House, De Gaulle the triumphant hero of France. Algeria and Vietnam completely offstage of course--this is a romantic comedy. The German occupation, the horrific world war and its aftermath are distant memories for Angela and her friends who were only children then. Life is young, the girls are pretty, the boys are cute, prosperity is upon them. It's Godard's Paris. Life is playful. Life is fun. You tease and you have no real worries. The Cold War is of no concern. The 100,000 or so American troops still stationed in France to support the troops in Germany are not seen. But Godard's love affair with the mass American culture is there in little asides and jokes. Emile or Alfred (I forget which) asks Angela what she would like to hear on the jukebox. "Istsy-bitsy bikini," he offers. No. She wants Charles Aznavour. She wants romance and an adult love that leads to marriage and maternity.
Angela's beloved is Emile played with a studied forbearance by an eternally youthful Jean-Claude Brialy. He doesn't want to father a baby, at least not yet. She pouts, she makes faces, she threatens, she burns the roast and drops the eggs, she crosses her arms, and she gives him the silent treatment. It doesn't work. He prefers to read the Worker's Daily. Ah, but will Alfred (Jean-Paul Belmondo, who seems intent on out boyish-ing Brialy) pull himself away from TV reruns of "Breathless" to do the job? Will she let him? Is Emile really so indifferent as to allow his friend carnal knowledge of his girlfriend? Is this a kind of threesome, a prelude to a menage a trois? Watch for a shot of Jeanne Moreau being asked how Truffaut's film Jules et Jim (1962) which she was working on at the time, is coming along, a kind of cinematic insider jest that Godard liked to include in his films. She gives a one word reply, "Moderato." See this for Anna Karina, and see her also in Godard's Band of Outsiders (1964) in which she looks even more teenager-ish than she does here. She is not a great actress, but she is wondrously directed by Godard who was then her husband.
(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it at Amazon!)
A Woman is a Woman was described by Godard as his "first real movie".
While Breathless to him may have seemed like a ill-born experiment (he
said of it that it didn't turn out like he expected), this film
displays his skills as a filmmaker that would later bloom out with My
Life to Live, Contempt, Band of Outsiders, and Alphaville. This may not
be as good as those, and perhaps it shows Godard, like with Fellini, as
an artist who would evolve with the more experience with the techniques
As it is, however, this film is, much of the time, a jubilant, tongue-in-cheek "musical-comedy-tragedy" about a stripper (Anna Karina, looking and acting as she usually does- gorgeously) who has that feeling kicking in to pound out a tot. His boyfriend Emile (Brialy) is reluctant, and thinks it's stupid to rush into it. Their mutual friend Alfred Lubitch, ho-ho, (played by Belmondo in a performance that makes me want to look back to see if he was so bad as I though it Breathless) would be happy to oblige, if he could find a connection of love somewhere. This story, much like with the story of three friends planning to rob a house in Band of Outsiders, is just the beat the actors and the directors sing and dance to. Meanwhile, the film takes of its own life-force as the filmmaker takes on a kind of criticism on the genres he's participating in, loading it with in-jokes.
Sometimes the in-jokes can be a little irksome, as can be the actors portrayals in spots. There is so much irony, so much fun, so much delight in being able to make such a widescreen piece like this that they sometimes forget what it is they're doing. Perhaps I have not seen enough of, or at least comparable to, the kinds of 50's musical-comedies that Godard must have eaten up like gummy bears. But it is clear to me that he, along with his actors Karina, Brialy, Belmondo, relish in their youth in this film without completely over-doing it. The literary/movie references are funny in most spots, the music by Michael Legrand is used by Godard with a touch of genius on both ends. And just when you think, like I did the first time I watched Breathless, that it might get surprisingly boring, it bounces back to get the viewer's attention with some unusual joke or song or element to catch you off guard. Any way you look at it, A Woman is a Woman is an essential piece of the French new-wave oeuvre, even if for me it was imperfect. B+
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