(1961) dir. Jean-Luc Godard
viewed: 05/19/03 at Castro Theater, SF, CA
Really getting into a bad habit of falling too far behind for these entries. I saw this film over a week ago. It’s not as fresh in my mind as it once was.
Jean-Luc Godard’s interpretation of the romantic comedy seems, on the surface, strangely “lite.” The challenges and disjunctures to the narrative and the distancing effects that Godard uses to keep the viewer from getting caught up in the film as story are in heavy use. Music swells during certain scenes in over-the-top fashion, only to suddenly cut off in mid-note/emotion, replaced with soundtrack silence or street noises. A moment or two later, the music rushes back in, occasionally blotting out the dialogue. Godard uses visual disjunctures as well, the characters directly address the audience, bowing before enacting one scene. The big difference is that Godard seems to play a lot of the elements for laughs.
And some of it is quite funny and charming. I really liked the way that the characters used the book titles from the shelves to silently insult one another while lying in bed. Ironically, this is perhaps one of the most truly narrative sequences in the film, in a sense, figuring the least disjunctive.
The film’s title A Woman is a Woman perhaps speaks to the real underlying subtext of the film. This has probably been analyzed to death elsewhere, so I apologize for the cheap goings-over. The beautiful Anna Karina, Godard’s wife at the time this was filmed I believe, plays a stripper, caught in a love triangle, between her boyfriend/lover and his best friend. Karina’s character, Angela, is obsessed with becoming pregnant and her desire for this conflicts with that of her boyfriend Émile and is essentially the source of the conflict. What the film is saying about a woman being a woman, I can’t really say, but it does seem to seek to define that according to some stereotypically significant aspects being female, the ability to become pregnant/give birth and the ability to be sexually objectified. The film’s attitude toward these things might be debatable…
I found the film quite enjoyable. The radical nature of Godard’s work seems both still very relavant and yet oddly quaint in a way. Some of the stylistic elements and characteristics of his work have been absorbed into the common language of film, though the bulk of what he attempts to do still remains clearly outside of film-work, totally housed within the avant-garde or underground cinemas. But there is this other side of the film as a document of a now historical Paris, of a dynamic period of film production that seems for lack of a better term, almost “quaint.” I think that might sound horribly insulting, but it’s not meant that way.