Right from the beginning of French director Jean-Luc Godard's career he staked out a self-conscious film style that both harkened back to older films and looked forward to a post modern-type cinema that became more prevalent in world cinema in the 1960's and 70's all the way through today. A Woman is a Woman released in 1961 is one of Godard's more whimsical and light weight films yet it is still inventive, playful and important to his career.
A Woman is a Woman is part musical melodrama, part farcical noir and part self realization story. For this reason the film is not necessarily for those viewers who like their films earnest and straightforward.
The story centers around Angela (Anna Karina) a Parisian stripper her live-in boyfriend Émile (Jean-Claude Brialy) and Émile's friend (Jean-Paul Belmondo) who's characters name is Alfred Lubitsch (named after the great Hollywood director of the 1930's). As the film unfolds Angela wants Émile to impregnate her. When he won't abide she turns to Alfred. The story goes from there for a short 85 minutes.
Even though the film is shot masterfully by Raoul Coutard in CinemaScope (2.35:1) and was meant to be seen on the big screen I have to say I enjoyed it a little more on the small screen. That's not to say that the DVD is better than the big screen experience but with the DVD I was able to stop it and go back to some of the film's more delightful and fun scenes. Notably some of the word play and visual designs that Godard specializes in.
The DVD transfer is beautiful to behold. The colors and CinemaScope composition look fabulous. In fact, the color comes across a bit sharper than I remember it being in the theatre when it was re-released last year. There are some splotches on the print and it also has a grainy texture but that's how it is supposed to look. Criterion has done another fine transfer.
The audio is in Dolby 1.0 mono and sounds good. Occasionally it has that flat dubbed sound but this being a foreign film from the 1960's it in no way hurts the overall quality. There are a few songs throughout the film all of which have a bit of a flat quality, yet that is what Godard wanted. He wasn't trying to attain high quality production.
There are a few good extras. First is Godard's first short film "Charlotte et Veronique ou 'Tous les garcons s'appellent Patrick'(All Boys are Are Called Patrick)," made in 1957 with a running time of 20 minutes. The quality and look of the film is very good. Next is a 13-minute excerpt from a 1966 French television interview called "Qui etes-vous Anna Karina?", featuring interviews with Jean-Claude Brialy, Anna Karina and Serge Gainsbourg. Then there are two photo galleries, with a collection of posters from around the world. There is also an interesting 35 minute audio promotional recording originally made for the film's release, which has a Criterion graphics; which runs about 35 minutes). Also included here is the film's original theatrical trailer. The booklet features an essay by Village Voice critic J. Hoberman, and a 1961 interview with Godard and Coutard.
A Woman is a Woman is Jean-Luc Godard's most playful film. Enjoyably self-conscious and delightfully colorful and musical it's not a Hollywood musical but an artful ode to Hollywood musicals. The Criterion DVD looks great and sound good. The extras give us about all we need to understand and appreciate this French New Wave film.