A Woman Is a Woman (1961) – Godard’s Daydream of Cinema


A lot of people said if Godard in “A Woman Is a Woman” is his most playful, joyful, uninhibited wild work ever than his most work. In Godard’s analytical way to the music genre, it’s astonishing to see him doing his another approach to the genre itself. There is music, as aspiration as the characters dance, or to think what he or she wants to talk or think. As with Godard always did, there are no rules in such ways. You just have to do it directly, dialectically and literally, and create it into a fantastic mix of realism to both stories.

Quick non-sense speculation, what would happen if this movie existed in the modern era with the internet? Reading the self-explanatory title itself, it might be there is a fire in all sorts of corners of the world. I’m just curious about what if Godard made this film in the 2010s. Anyway, “A Woman Is a Woman” is a Jean-Luc Godard second feature film after one of his best influence work, “Breathless“. We all know “Breathless” is a masterpiece. It became one of the opening acts of the new film era for French New Wave, along with François Truffaut’sThe 400 Blows“.

And it makes you think that French New Wave also inspires many internet platforms such as YouTube, especially vloggers and video essays. If only French New Wave had never existed, film theorists or people with a hobby of writing essays and literature might not have been able to develop until now. I think French New Wave is a benchmark not only in filmmaking. But, it becomes one of the most influences we aren’t aware of in any movement. There is, slightly a bit, pop culture and if you think again, “A Woman Is a Woman” is Godard’s first film with color.

“A Woman Is a Woman” star with Godard’s wife, Anna Karina, as the opening story, immediately conveyed if this is a movie. She wants to reach, once again, her success in her next film. On the other hand, she plays as a stripper who always hugs her boyfriend. Her boyfriend, Jean-Claude Brialy, was never sensitive. But, I understand why he doesn’t want to accept his girlfriend’s request. It’s because he has to think about the future so that he, and his girlfriend, can live happily. At the end of the day, a woman is just a woman. Am I right?

The man is just insensitive because Anna Karina wants a baby soon. She just wants a baby and can get a family quickly, live peacefully, and be free from a lot of pressure from the street and job. This unique, confused, yet ridiculous relationship is, in essence, not like we think or see every day. They are, in essence, not married yet. Even Brialy’s Emile never wanted a baby. Therefore, Karina’s Angela tries to make Emile jealous of himself. She is looking for a new back with her best friend, Jean-Paul Belmondo as Alfred. She’ll be loyal to have a baby with Angela even though Emile didn’t have to care for her.

And yes, there is an easter egg when Belmondo runs into Jeanne Moreau and asks, “how is “Jules and Jim” coming along?” And to tell you the truth, this movie has a similar pattern to another Truffaut’s work as well. As the question flowed, Belmondo suddenly smiled directly at the camera as in, “we get it”. This movie also has many references to Hollywood musical; the truth is this isn’t a musical movie. There is a sequence where Emile and Alfred try to appear the most masculine to attract Angela’s attention. A lot of media especially romance films, also cartoons, take this reference.

This movie uses music as a contempt, to fill the burst and the personality to the characters. And yeah, don’t forget with the interrupting editing where there are many moments the score and the frame always become arbitrarily. But, I get it, it’s Jean-Luc Godard. The shot after shot, sequence after sequence, where there is one couple who just kiss and kiss without leaving the frame.

There is also a brilliant sequence where Angela had found Emile cheating on her. Alfred shows a photo of Emile with another woman and the song just plays in the background. The great thing about the sequence is the hurtful image and Angela’s feeling just fits with the entire sequence. You know if Angela has a lot of things on her head and you understand it with just a song. It’s the power of song, to express our feelings through a song both reminisced and felt millions of other worlds.

Godard’s style always has innovation in each of his films. I like his trademark because of what he used film as a language. It’s the language of the film. It becomes a fresh vitality of how we understand visuals and language as one form. Watching “A Woman Is A Woman” made me think that the plot isn’t as important as a cinema in general. But, it just becomes a new cinema if we breathe in classic films new innovations at the time. Books, bold text, printed words, songs, editing as the magic trick; this movie is bright and lively yet unrealistic and exaggerated. And I love it. I love it every second of it.

Salman Al Farisi

An Indonesian who loves to watch and read everything. A literary student who likes to write about reviews and essays on Crackdown Review. But, I just wannabe critics who love arthouse than anything.

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