Thursday, October 30, 2008

Une Femme Est Une Femme

Godard's second feature film to be shown in theaters showcases the seeds of ideas that would fully germinate in his later more experimental work. While Une Femme Est Une Femme follows a relatively straightforward narrative, its elements occur repeatedly throughout Godard's career. The film self-reflexively starts with starlet Anna Karina shouting "lights, camera, action!". Godard takes this idea to a further extreme in Tout Va Bien where the film starts with a close up of a hand writing out payroll checks for various members of a film crew, and a voice over conversation about who to find as a star for the film. Tout Va Bien also contains a heavy usage of the red, white, and blue color scheme that you see in Émile & Angela's apartment. You also see a few very languid camera pans between actors across spaces where no action is taking place. Shots like this became commonplace in his later work as well, like the 360 degree pans used in Sympathy For The Devil or the very long tracking shots in Le Week-end. Another device that would be a staple of later Godard films is the use of text on screen to comment on the narrative (or sometimes, having seemingly nothing to do with the narrative). Intertitle screens would pop up in between and sometimes during the "acts" of Masculin, Feminin. There is even the slightest hint of the leftist political slant his films would take on in the late 60s and early 70s. When the police come to Emile & Angela's apartment to take a look around, one of them notices Émile reading a communist newspaper, and offers him a word of encouragement, telling him to "keep it up".
I think that this film is much more self-conscious of its role as a film than Breathless. The film starts with Anna Karina shouting "lights! camera! action!", letting the audience hear what would normally only be heard by the cast and crew during the shooting. Godard also foregrounds the issue of spectatorship from the very beginning with the scene of Karina dancing at the club. She struts out onto the floor of the club and looks directly into the camera at us while she does her sultry song and dance act. One of the patrons looks at her through a pair of opera glasses even though she is only a few feet away from him. Another instance of foregrounding spectatorship is when Belmondo makes a comment about wanting to go home to watch Breathless on TV, a film that he starred in. Through his self-reference he steps outside of his characters role for a moment, acknowledging his existence outside of the artificiality of the filmic narrative that he is in.
The impression I got of Une Femme Est Une Femme is that it was a musical without the singing, and parodizes the classical 50s Hollywood era musicals. For example, there is a scene of Karina and Belmondo dancing in a rubble filled alley. This is a stark contrast to the glamorous settings in 50s Hollywood musical with flashy costumes and elaborately choreographed dance numbers. In the moments when you would expect the characters to break out into song, nothing happens. The one moment that stuck out in my mind the most was when Lubitsch came to their apartment. He leaves with to have dinner while Angela stays in the apartment alone. This would be the perfect moment for her to launch into a song about how her husband drives her crazy while she dances around the apartment, but instead she just sulks.

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