Sunday, December 20, 2009

#238: A Woman is a Woman

(Jean-Luc Godard, 1961)

Here's a Godard movie I just completely fell in love with from the very beginning. As a movie, there's not much here: Anna Karina plays a stripper who wants to have a baby but her boyfriend isn't ready, so she fights with him and flirts with having one with his best friend (whose last name is Lubitsch). That's pretty much it.

But as a movie about movies - about one moment in movies mixing with every other moment that has come before it - this is perhaps Godard's most playful and least conflicted engagement with the films he loved growing up. The film uses movie techniques as gags: editing a shouting match to seem rhythmic; using quick bursts of music throughout as if the film's decidedly non-musical dialog was prelude to a song the actors are resisting; breaking the fourth wall with no regard for realism. At one point, a character says, "Hurry up, Breathless is on TV and I don't want to miss it." Karina throws an egg up in the air, goes to tell someone on the phone to hold on one second, then goes back to catch the egg and plate it.

The film is not the kind of masterpiece that some of Godard's other films are. The characters lack depth, and this shallowness is strongest in Karina's character. Though she gives it her all, she ends up coming off like the unpredictable irrational female cliché at (most) times. The fights between the lovers are more surreal than recognizable, though one brilliant sequence involves them communicating through book covers when they are not speaking to each other. But I can't remember the last time a movie got me so excited at the idea of making a movie. Most of all, A Woman is a Woman boils over with that enthusiasm and 1961-era cool. It's an interaction with the world around it that so many films lack, and to be able to bring a sense of time not just to a story or theme but to a film's aesthetic and technique is what Godard does perhaps better than any other filmmaker in history.


  1. At one point, a character says, "Hurry up, Breathless is on TV and I don't want to miss it."...This is so much more funny because the character saying this is Jean-Paul Belmondo, the star of Breathless! I love your blog, been following it and sent it to some classmates who ended up admitting their deep love of FU Penguin. You've got lots of AFI fans...

  2. Totally, I don't know why I didn't think of that!

    Really loved this movie...