Wednesday, 3 February 2010

The trouble with Godard - Reviews #10

Une femme est une femme (Jean-Luc Godard, 1961) conjures that feeling of acute frustration unique to the work of Jean-Luc Godard: as soon as it achieves some kind of clarity or emotional attractiveness it goes off somewhere else. But if that new diversion isn't working, don't worry - there'll be another one along in a minute. Anna Karina is good as the playful, big-eyed protagonist, who loves her boyfriend (Jean-Claude Brialy) but wants a baby so much she might just have one with her ex (Jean-Paul Belmondo, in another winning performance). The film is brightly-coloured, imaginative and littered with movie in-jokes, containing references to the movies of Godard and his Nouvelle Vague contemporary Francois Truffaut and nods to old Hollywood musicals (Gene Kelly and Bob Fosse are namechecked, Belmondo's surname is Lubitsch). And every so often everything clicks into place: like the terrific snippet in which Belmondo is accused of dodging the rent, the barrage of peculiar noises preceding his anticipated bathroom tryst with Karina or the series of visual gags based on manipulated book titles. But the movie frequently unravels, with long stretches that offer nothing but vivid direction and a feeling that Godard should really watch some of those musical comedies he claims to be homaging. The film's incoherence is mistaken by some critics for freewheeling brilliance, which is a pretty stupid mistake to make. (2.5)

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