• A Woman is a Woman (Une femme est une femme) was Godard’s third film shot and second released (Le Petit Soldat held up for years with censors). It is Godard’s first foray into color (pretty rare anywhere but Hollywood at this point still). This is before Truffaut (Fahrenheit 451 in 1966), Varda, Resnais, Demy and before others like Fellini, Antonioni, and Kurosawa started experimenting in color

From the very opening with the title sequence it does feel like you’re in for something special. I can only imagine sitting there in 1961 waiting for this, Godard’s sophomore effort, after Breathless (probably the most promising debut since Citizen Kane), and then the lights go down and the big bold primary titles for A Woman is a Woman come up. You can hear like an orchestra warming up—you get an immediate buzz from it. Then the “lights, camera, action”—reflexive and postmodern from the start.

  • 84-minutes—short– like almost all of Godard’s work during the 1960’s
  • Michel Legrand does the music and he’s really like the chosen musician of the French New Wave. He works with Varda (Cleo From 5 to 7), Demy (Umbrellas of Cherbourg) and Godard of course. He’d go on to work in Hollywood and win Oscars but this is really his best period of work
  • Because of the pushback of Le Petit Soldat this becomes the first archiveable debut for Anna Karina- Godard’s muse and wife. She’s transcendent here. She’s dressed in either red or yellow primary colors, has the blue eyeshadow, she sings, she winks at the camera- hypnotic.
  • Shot on the streets of Paris a bar, and, largely, in one small apartment

a stunning attention to detail while at the same time maintaining Godard’s atmosphere of perceived improvisation and spontaneity

  • Godard is having discourse with and manipulating traditional genre trappings again—not the gangster film this time (Breathless), or the spy film (Le Petit Soldat), but here the musical of course (hence the Eastmancolor and Franscope with the wider aspect ratio 2.35 : 1). This takes 1960’s French New Wave content like nudity, sex,  (just like Umbrellas) and puts it in the pretty trimmings of the Hollywood musical. Godard is doing this before Demy.
  • The sound design is as inventive and playful as the rest of the form. Godard is really just picking up the needle and dropping it in and out randomly when he sees fit. He’s messing with expectations- when a big musical number comes up, he drops the score completely. It’s built in the editing room- Godard is about dissonance. He’s an important counterpoint to tradition in cinema history
  • Playfully postmodern- genre dissection. Godard is eclectic, a skeptic and deconstructs. “we bow to the audience”.

There’s a subtitled narration for the audience telling us the inner motivations or plot points “Emile takes Angela at her word” and so on. Similar to what Woody Allen does with form in Annie Hall over fifteen years later.

A full-on color tint from the neon light at the cabaret—stunning close-up on Karina

  • Like all of Godard’s work it is highly referential–  both influences and self. Belmondo’s character is named Lubitsch, there’s a Fosse reference- they fly at you. Belmondo says Breathless is on tv tonight, and at one point he asks Jeanne Moreau (getting a drink randomly in the bar) how Jules and Jim is going (which doesn’t come out until 1962).
  • His trademark jump cuts—patented shaky handheld tracking shot as he’s backpedaling as his characters walk down the Parisian street.

Godard jump cuts a mock song and dance number

  • The use of color is so inspired. The red blouse and stockings on Karina. The red lampshade. There are red and blue clothespins on the yellow towel. Yellow roses. The mise-en-scene is dedicated to the color design.

Jean-Claude Brialy is in blue the entire time almost. Karina has yellow pajamas but is mostly in red. They have a red flashing light in their bathroom. Expressionistic and painterly

Like Le Petit Soldat there is a heavy use of the camera pan. Godard is oscillating back and forth between Karina and Jean-Claude Brialy at dinner. There’s a red and blue neon street sign behind them through the window outside

  • For all of their differences (and there are plenty)- there’s a moment here in the early 1960’s where Godard and Truffaut line up. In one scene during an argument here Brialy tells her to “go fry an egg” as an expression. And she goes and actually fries an egg (Godard even edits it so she flips it out of the pan, he cuts, and a long time later she comes and catches it—again a playful reflexive “cinema is a lie” sort of postmodern touch). This stylistic friskiness is very similar to the “may my mother drop dead” (with a cutaway to his mother dropping dead) moment in Truffaut’s Shoot the Piano Player (which is 1960 and again outright referenced in this film).
  • A love triangle, very chic, nudity, looking right at the camera
  • A montage of Karina in close-up as she goes through emotions listening to a love song.

The color tinting again at the 78-minute mark for her singing

  • The film rewards repeat viewing like the neighbor girl who is constantly having men over.
  • “I don’t know if this is a comedy or a tragedy—but it is a masterpiece”- and I tend to agree

They lay in bed and turn out the lights and “FIN” is on a neon light in the window outside—wonderful

  • A Must-See/Masterpiece level film leaning masterpiece. It must have felt like Godard is reinventing cinema at this point in 1961- perhaps rightly so.