A Woman Is a Woman (1961)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Romantic Comedy, Musical Comedy, Sophisticated Comedy  |   Run Time - 83 min.  |   Countries - France   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Elbert Ventura

Famously described by Jean-Luc Godard as "a neorealist musical, that is, a contradiction in terms," Une Femme Est Une Femme is as singular as its maker's caption suggests. Charming and jarring, sometimes within the same scene, Godard's third film does for the movie musical what Breathless, his groundbreaking debut, did for the gangster film. The movie has the makings of a typical musical -- attractive actors, bold colors, and melodious music, not to mention picturesque Paris. Not any less pleasurable is Godard's technical mastery. Graceful camera moves, harmonious choreography within the frame, and expressionistic lighting make the movie a joy to watch from a purely formal standpoint. As it becomes clear early on, however, these distinct elements never quite cohere in the way we expect them to. The score flits in and out of a musical number unexpectedly; scenes and the songs accompanying them end unfinished; title cards and direct addresses to the audience interrupt the narrative. Never allowing us to succumb to the spell of movie alchemy, Godard pulls back the curtain to call attention to the inner workings of a genre designed to captivate. For all its attempts at autocritique, the movie nonetheless creates its own transfixing beauty. Playfully cerebral and never less than lovely -- it opens and ends, aptly enough, with a coy wink at its audience -- Une Femme Est Une Femme may be the warmest gesture in Godard's career-long interrogation of film's glories and deceptions.