Une Femme Est Un Femme (A Woman Is A Woman), directed by Jean Luc Godard in 1961, starring Anna Karina is probably the most playful and accessible Godard movie I’ve seen. It’s sometimes classified as a musical, though, I think it’s more of a sort of post-modern homage to Hollywood musical comedy of the late 50s/early 60s.
Karina plays Angela, an “exotic dancer,” though, I would characterize her more of a burlesque dancer. Her dance/strip style stands out from the rest of the other dancers because her act is definitely Hollywood musical-esque. In the film, Angela is trying to convince her live-in boyfriend, Emile to have a baby with her. After a series of silly fights they have, she sleeps with his friend, Alfred, who claims to love her also. This is definitely too risqué of a plot to actually be an American musical of that time, or ever, frankly. In this way, though, it kind of reminded me of Dancer in the Dark. Perhaps at first glance, you could see Godard’s film as purely a “fun” comedy, but I think that maybe, the musical aspects of the movie are sort of juxtaposed against the more serious nature of the plot and perhaps is a way that Angela copes with her loneliness and dissatisfaction in the relationship with the chauvinistic and unsympathetic Emile.
Not just in her strip scenes, but throughout the movie in general, there’s a distracting use of visual and audio effects; lots of jump cuts and dissonant and abrupt bursts of music. While I think this definitely does pay tribute to Hollywood musicals, it also exposes their ridiculousness, sort of deconstructs them. More specifically, I think this is also used here as a tool to illustrate Angela’s state of mind-agitated, passionate, and a bit melodramatic.
The production design on this film also exposed the unrealistic nature of Hollywood. Though the early 60s were certainly very charming and more formal than what we’re used to seeing in most films nowadays, plus that Godard, when making anything in color, as far as I know, always uses very precious colors, I thought this design stood in great, great contrast to the type of design in Hollywood musicals of the 50s and 60s. Not just the outdoor scenes on the streets with graffiti, etc, but the tracking shots in the apartment, club, and restaurant interiors, as my movie-watching companion observed, made what would be otherwise inconsequential inanimate objects significant. These objects were more often than not un-glamorized objects and displays of everyday life-at least in comparison with the Hollywood characterization of everyday life.
Even if you disregard the post-modern winks some of the actors toss at the camera & you take everything at face value, it’s still a pretty enjoyable film. Karina’s aesthetics are beautiful, lovely, and charming, despite the complexity of her character. You cannot take your eyes off of her, and can definitely enjoy her musical numbers and graceful movement throughout the film.