A Woman is a Woman is one the most inviting of Godard’s films we have seen this semester. It is empathetic and quite intuitive in its portrayal of gender roles, sexual politics, and the natural sort of divide that seems to exist between men and women. It is genuine and entertaining in its humor, accessible because relatable, and strangely, in a Godard way, seems in many ways to be much unlike a Godard film, perhaps due to the fact that it was made early in his career—there is more than a mere semblance of a plot, it is playful and refreshingly devoid of the typical nihilistic tone which pervades most of his later films, and has compassion for its characters (especially, of course, Anna Karina). If nothing else, in fact, and if I am searching for something with which to marginalize this film, it may be said that the film was made merely to showcase Karina (Godard’s wife at the time), rather than being just another of his films in which she was acting. However, from a cinematic and technical standpoint, the film is doing many interesting things concerning genre deconstructions and filmic self-reflexivity, and is very much indicative of what would later become typical Godard. Also, and in the same vein, I enjoyed this film more the second time I saw it because it allowed me to see Godard’s career in a different light, to more clearly see his cinematic evolution and dynamism. In fact, this film seems almost to be a precursor to his later film Maculin Feminin, which is a much more abstracted, fractured, and nihilistic look at gender and sexual politics, among other things.
The plot centers around a couple, Angela (Karina) and Emile (Jean-Claude Brialy). Angela, an endearing and free-spirited, if slightly naïve, stripper wants desperately to have a child with Emile as soon as possible—“within 24 hours”. Emile, however, is tentative and unrelenting (until the final scene) in his refusal. Instead, and at the base of much of the comedy, Emile solicits other men with whom Angela may procreate, mainly his best friend, who is in love with Angela, Alfred Lubitsch. The plot is itself relatively uninteresting and improbable, and the content and tone of the film, as I have already stated, seem to be polar opposites of the anti-capitlistic and nihilistic films which Godard would later envision and create. The film has an overall tone of optimism, it is endearing and accessible, which may, in many people’s eyes, be reason for its dismissal when taken relative to the ambitious, fervent, and ultra-artistic and inaccessible auteur films of Godard’s later career. However, I feel that this dismissal is truly unfounded and that to disregard this film due to its discernible “cuteness” or tangibility is to marginalize something which is indeed artistic and expressive in many other ways. Though cute and optimistic, it is nonetheless a film which Godard decided to write and create, and by virtue of this fact alone, it seems to call, and be suited, for some critical analysis.