Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Jean-Luc Godard - A Woman Is a Woman

Yesterday I posted a review of Breathless I wrote back when STUDIOCANAL released a five movie bluray set of Jean-Luc Godard's work, as the news had just hit of the legendary director's passing. 

Today, I'm continuing the reposting of those reviews from the long gone blog, this one of the movie "A Woman Is A Woman".

(Originally posted Jan 2016)

On the 1st February 2016, STUDIOCANAL is releasing a boxed set of films by the legendary director Jean-Luc Godard on blu-ray. Last week, I had a look at the first film in the box, the stunning and ultra-cool “Breathless” (À Bout De Souffle). This week, I turn my attentions to Godard’s first work in Cinemascope and colour, “A Woman is a Woman” (Une femme est une femme).

Still oozing in cool, Godard embraces colour and cinemascope and feels like it is paying tribute to the big budget, colour musicals of Hollywood. But it still retains its originality, its playfulness with the medium and film language, to make it unmistakably Godard’s, and genuinely wonderful.

I’d not seen the film before, but reading the synopsis it sounds horribly dark. Angela, an exotic dancer in a strip club is in a relationship with Émile. She wants to have a baby, but he doesn’t, fearing it’ll tie him down and stop his chauvinistic galavanting. She turns to his friend Alfred, who is in love with her, and threatens to sleep with him to get what she wants.

It could be seen as a dark, and slightly depressing story of a love that has gone cold. A relationship coming to an end, and Angela’s desperation to have a child. But it’s not. Far, far from it. 

Instead the film is bright, colourful, filled with humour and music that feels more like a modern independent romantic comedy, like “(500) Days of Summer”. It’s no surprise that “A Woman is a Woman” is one of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s favourite films. 

Anna Karina plays Angela with such vibrancy and humour, she is absolutely mesmerising. You wonder why the cold Émile, played by Jean-Claude Brialy, isn’t worshipping the ground under her feet. They have a strange relationship, and most of the film they are arguing, but not in a horrible way. There have been films where couples argue or hate each other (“War of the Roses”, “The Breakup”) which I have absolutely hated, coming out of the film feeling depressed. This, the arguing is sweet and amusing. There are segments where they refuse to talk to each other, highlighting words from book covers to insult each other. But in between her arguing and telling Émile that she hates him, she looks to the camera, breaks the fourth wall, and tells the audience that she really loves him.

The other man in her life, Alfred, is played by Breathless superstar Jean-Paul Belmondo. Playing it cool and rogue-like again, but in a more subtle way that before, and showing a real affection for Angela. 

I won’t tell you how the film is resolved, it seriously should be seen. It has lovely quirks - like Angela going to answer a phonecall, throwing a frying egg up into the air, answering the call, coming back to catch the egg - and plays with Godard’s signature jump-cuts perfectly - one of Angela’s dancer friends changes clothes by simply walking behind a post. Add fourth wall breaking, cycling around an apartment, and captions on screen to add to the mix, and you’re presented with a wonderful treat that has already become a favourite in my books.

The blu-ray is suitably gorgeous, though the music track seemed a lot louder than the rest of the film (probably more a problem with my TV set up than the film). Extras on the disc include an introduction, and an interview with Anna Karina. 

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