A Woman Is a Woman Screen 16 articles

A Woman Is a Woman

1961

A Woman Is a Woman Poster
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    ?: Manny Farber
    October 1968 | Farber on Film (p. 626)

    A monotonously capering version of a hack Arthur Freed musical, perhaps the most soporific, conceited, sluggish movie of all time. The crazy thing about this movie is the unrehearsed cinéma vérité feeding on littleness, love of the Real slamming against the Reel, the kind of studio-made pizzazz that went into My Sister Eileen. The elements include deliberately artificial Times Square color, humorless visual puns, each scene pulled out like taffy, the action told so slowly it paralyzes you.

  • The first time I saw it, as a college junior in New York, it was an unmitigated delight... the most recent time I saw it--the umpteenth time--was at a Chicago press screening, and it was one irritation after another. The historical resonance was entirely different. All my other viewings had fallen somewhere between these two extremes, though not in a steady descent. This is in part because of the film's peculiar relation to American musicals.

  • A WOMAN IS A WOMAN--which famously juxtaposes hallmarks of Italian Neorealism (location shooting, hand-held camera, working-class milieu) and MGM musicals (bright colors, cheerful tone, singing and dancing)--resonates because of its sincere allegiance to the characters, working types who identify with the heightened emotions of musicals but never have the chance to act on them.

  • It has a thin thread of plot about Karina's desire to get pregnant, it flanks her with the pragmatic Brialy on one side and the romantic Belmondo on the other, then stands all of them in the shadow of MGM musical stars of the '40s and '50s, and it collages these elements together with sundry gags, worries, contradictions and asides into a kind of movie that nobody had seen before. The result is brash, defiant, gaudy and infinitely fragile.

  • Never heavy-handed, the film defies genre-placement. This subversive musical celebrates female empowerment and takes sly jabs at Hollywood film conventions. Godard's use of music is at its best here, not to be rivaled until the impeccable, metallic soundscape of Alphaville.

  • Certainly the director's fruitiest potpourri—and his first in widescreen and color—Woman turns away from the murky political ambivalence of Soldat back to the flinty, rueful romanticism of Breathless... A Woman Is a Woman is Godard light, but not lite: Its breezy postures front for melancholia.

  • Mr. Godard’s musical romp served as an extension of his critical revaluation of Hollywood musicals as significant contributions to the artistic heritage of world cinema. I was in Paris in 1961 (a year that changed my life), and A Woman Is a Woman was one of my two cinematic epiphanies on the Champs Elysées-the other being the glorious widescreen revival of the uncut Lola Montés (1955) from Max Ophüls.

  • Nouvelle vague euphoria was at its height when Jean-Luc Godard made his enormously clever third feature, A Woman Is a Woman (1961)... Seen today, what’s fascinating is how much social awareness Godard brings to the notion of “heterosexual love.” With her masklike makeup and bouffant hairdo, Karina is a total construction. This stubborn, graceful creature is not only the world’s most demure stripper but merely the idea of a woman—or, at least, Godard’s idea of one.

  • There are a couple of absurdly nonchalant song-and-dance sequences, though mostly, Michel Legrand’s sumptuous music swells in anticipation of showstoppers that never happen. And in the center of it all there’s Karina, the most enduring of the New Wave’s new women, decked out in one costume more gaudily Technicolor than the next, shimmering like a rainbow lollipop.

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    Everything Is Cinema (book): Richard Brody
    May 13, 2007 | Chapter 5

    The editing room is the principal site of Godard's innovation and invention on A Woman Is a Woman. The editing works against the conventional purpose of the process, which is to overcome any disparities in the footage, to emphasize the continuities and efface the discontinuities, to advance the illusion of a unified fiction. A Woman Is a Woman is constructed on exactly the opposite principle: it is constructed as a collage of its footage

  • It’s almost annoying and yet, I enjoy repeat viewings of this movie, it’s so…gorgeous. Jean-Luc Godard's fluffiest film, A Woman Is a Woman (1961), works as a nutty exercise of mixing cynicism with loopy feel-goodism... Shot in glorious color, the picture is eye-poppingly vibrant—and not just for Karina and the two rakish male leads or for Godard's inventive direction, but also for the general aesthetic of the time.

  • Eastmancolor primaries saturate our heroine, but then Godard reverses the shot and shows us an actual rotating filter at work; actors constantly break the fourth wall and address the camera directly. They're the sorts of tricks that Godard would apply in different fashion so much over the coming decade that it can only be a tribute to his astonishing gift for subversion that nearly every visual and aural trick in A Woman Is a Woman still shocks to this day.

  • One of Godard's funniest pictures, the film rattles off gag after gag with a machine-gun frequency that recalls the screwballs the director worshipped, a frequency that would leave contemporary comedies in the dust.

  • Infinitely inventive gaiety is but a veil for anxiety, Godard’s contemplation of Karina swings from adoring to ruthless and the bouncy camera turns ominously interrogative as it stalks the heroine around the apartment in a prowling POV.

  • One of the more internalized of Godard’s films from this period, A Woman Is a Woman is less a caustic portrait of its time than a look at the complicated dynamics of relationships (and particularly Godard’s own relationship with then-muse Karina). As such, it presages future classics like Contempt. However, it’s set apart by its friendliness and generosity toward its characters and its consciously rickety musical sequences.

  • Despite being largely regarded as minor Godard, A Woman Is a Woman is not only one of Jean-Luc Godard’s most purely exuberant films but one which prefigures many of the aesthetic and thematic concerns that the filmmaker would revisit and refine in later works. Perhaps the most notable of these is the bold, comic book-style color palette and flat, planimetric framings, which Godard would push further towards abstraction in Pierrot fe fou and Two Or Three Things I Know About Her.

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