Woman is a Woman, A (1961)

“I want a baby in the next 24 hours.”

Synopsis:
A woman (Anna Karina) desperate to become pregnant turns to an admirer (Jean-Paul Belmondo) for “help” when her partner (Jean-Claude Brialy) refuses to take her request seriously.

Genres:

Review:
After the phenomenal success of his New Wave debut film Breathless in 1960, Jean-Luc Godard made what he considered to be his “first real film” — this playful yet frustrating character study-cum-musical which defiantly exploits cinematic conventions at every turn. A Woman is a Woman received mixed reviews upon its release, and continues to divide critics, with many finding it unduly wearisome and far too clever for its own good — indeed, Godard’s insistence (soon to be a trademark) on using random, often incongruous snippets of music, then cutting away to silence without warning, quickly becomes tedious, if not downright aggravating (particularly since the inimitable Michel Legrand composed the score — such as it is — here). Many other critics, however, acknowledge this as one of Godard’s most accessible and perversely likable films, a heady love note to Cinema and all its possibilities. Ultimately, A Woman is a Woman will not be for all tastes (as DVD Savant points out, the majority of non-cinephiles will give up on it after ten minutes), but it remains at the very least a watchable curiosity — thanks in large part to Godard’s many lingering, loving takes on Karina (his then-wife), whose expressive face is hard to resist.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Anna Karina as Angela
    Woman is a Woman Karina
  • A vibrant look at early 1960s Paris
    Woman is a Woman Paris
  • Michel Legrand’s musical score — though it’s unfortunately butchered to death

Must See?
No, but fans of Godard and/or French New Wave cinema will certainly want to check it out. Listed as a film with Historical Importance in the back of Peary’s book.

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One Response to “Woman is a Woman, A (1961)”

  1. A must – and that comes from someone who pretty much detests Godard’s work.

    I’ll explain:

    I’m firmly convinced that, years from now, the bulk of Godard’s work will be seen as the anti-cinema masturbation that it is. (Its years of adoration can only be explained by the fond feelings so many have towards masturbation.)

    However, in this film (which I was, at least, able to get through), Godard has what vaguely resembles an actual plot – at any rate, logical extensions on a theme for the masses.

    It’s still not all that great (grudgingly I’ll admit it has a few genuinely fun moments), but ffs are, I suppose, going to have to experience Godard once, at least – for his cinematic name if nothing else – and this is as good a place as any to watch.

    Seeing as Michel Legrand was involved, I thought this might, in part, be a bizarre parody of ‘The Umbrellas of Cherbourg’ – until I realized that that film came three years later. At any rate, it seems Legrand did an admirable job working around Godard’s idiosyncratic style.

    Karina is adorable, and gives the film an anchor it desperately needs.

    But I still don’t think you’re going to have all that good a time.

    Best (in-joke) bit: Belmondo turns to Jeanne Moreau (in a cameo) in a bar –

    Belmondo: How’s it going with Jules and Jim?

    Moreau: So-so.

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