Une femme est une femme (France, 1961)

Anna Karina est une femme

I love the first half of this film where Godard’s playful modernism still doesn’t feel dated. Karina, as the ‘unfathomable’ woman of the title, winks at the camera and sings for the audience; of course, I could find this completely charming simply because it’s being performed by one of the most photogenic film stars in history. There’s playful camera trickery, a homage to silent Hollywood, as well as the tributes to the musical. The soundtrack mismatches images, drawing attention to the artifice, and the street scenes have a verite quality that look both modern and historical.

However, the second part is dominated by discussions between Angela (Karina) and Jean-Claude-Biraly, who plays her boyfriend, as to whether they should have a child. This isn’t exactly riveting 50 years on; I similarly find the long conversation in the bedroom in Breathless (1960) a longeur. However Jean-Paul Belmondo enlivens scenes as the would-be suitor, and mate of Brialy, who would happily inseminate Karina. Belmondo’s wonderfully charismatic as the ‘bad boy’ much in the same way as Vincent Cassel is today.

Original poster

This sums up another problem with the film; a problem with Godard really. Although politically left charges of misogyny are not difficult to point at the director. This is slightly unfair as the second feminist movement had yet to get into full swing but that doesn’t negate the fault. For Godard, women are a capricious and unknowable mystery; and it suits some men to think this, so that any female upset is caused by their nature and not male (ie their) behaviour.

So the film is part a period piece (hmm that assumes society is less sexist now than it was 50 years ago and I’m not sure about that) and part a marvelous ‘new wave’ film where Godard is still in love with Hollywood but also looking beyond it.

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