I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book. - Groucho Marx

A cooler, Sexier Godard: A Married Woman


by Chris Sutton
Aug. 3, 2014

There is not much more that can be said about Jean Luc-Godard's filmography that hasn't already been analyzed and dissertated. His place in, and ubiquitous influence on, the history of cinema is akin to the stature of 20th century luminaries such as Pablo Picasso and Miles Davis. All of these icons insatiably absorbed the history, ethos, and spirituality of their respective crafts, used that knowledge to shatter all of the inherit rules and conventions, and then wielded those shards liberally in face of the old guard, thus irreversibly pushing their respective art forms into the future. Godard was an art warrior in the truest sense, literally fighting and demonstrating against an oppressive government in the name of creative freedom, and along with revolutionary brethren like Francois Truffaut, created several films (most notably from 1961 to 1967) that were designed to not only defiantly challenge and educate the average film viewer but also pay homage to the heroes of the classic films they so loved. Virtually every modern film maker cites Godard and others in the French New Wave as primary influences and often times movies like Band Of Outsiders and Breathless are the average students first foray into cinephelia. The irony in all of this is that Godard's initial intention wasn't even to be a director at all, his real passion was film critique, and all of his classic films are rife with referential nods and tributes to whom he felt were masters of the cinematic craft. Jean-Luc saw himself more as a cinematic theorist with a heavy ideological leaning towards Existentialism and Marxism, and he used no subtlety at all when including these beliefs and musings in his films. In this way, his raw and incendiary style leave little to the imagination. His sound tracking is intentionally not in sync, there is a negligent adherence to his storylines, and his hamfisted approach to editing and cinematography gave devout purists fits, but all of these "flaws" are hallmarks of what is now considered a well respected and influental career.

A Married Woman, Godard's 8th feature film from 1964, features all of the characteristics we know from his other movies but delivered with a much cooler and ultimately modernist approach. Even by his own account of the time he was concious of trying to present a movie that had smoothed out some of the edges that he had been critiqued for in his earlier films. This is also perhaps his most feminist film and perhaps an ideological sequel to 1962's Vivre Sa Vie. While Vivre's main character (played by Anna Karina) is a young woman at the cusp of adulthood being controlled by her surroundings and searching for answers with no known future prospects. Charlotte, however, is in complete control in this film, gliding through her poly-amorous dilemma with relative ease, the calm demeanor only mildly disturbed by an unplanned pregnancy. Indeed, this movie is a breath of fresh Parisian air and thoroughly a celebration of the feminine gender. In fact, the statuesque opening scene is a loving close up of Charlottes hair, that classic Godard hair....short, angular, and meticulously pruned. From that point on actress Macha Meril cooly exudes the complicated emotions of a romantically conflicted woman and her adventures throughout the semblace of this storyline attempt to magnify every aspect of what that means. She witnesses introspective monologues about the beautiful nature of womanhood and it's importance on French culture, overhears a conversation between two nubile girls about the apprehensions ones first sexual encounter, and listens to a neighbor relay a particularly explicit story about the joys of being dominated by her husband. Even the treatment of female form in pop culture gets Godard's unique decontruction in the form of magazine collages and shots of popular album sleeves.

Woman is ultimately a sex movie and the bedroom scenes themselves are treated with stunning and creative artistic discretion, bordering on fine art. Bare body parts are arranged in eye catching compositions, exuding overwhelming sensuality without so much as inkling of genitalia or actual sex. Most strikingly is the extensive use of hands. Charlotte is constantly touching her hair, neck, and face with an excruciating tension and the simple act of a man and a woman washing their hands in a sink with soap is closely portrayed solely with the viewers arousal in mind.

Godard is often considered a misogynist for his treatment of women in his stories, and with examples like the aforementioned Vivre Sa Vie and Week End from 1967, the discerning feminist might have a case. However, in A Married Woman I only see a deep respect and reverence for his subject and with this movie I believe he was attempting empower his protagonist and showcase her already liberated sensibilities.

References:

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean-Luc_Godard

www.theguardian.com

www.labuzamovies.com/2011/.../I-hate-jean-luc-godard-and-you-should.html

www.nytimes.com/movie/review

Chris Sutton is a musician, writer, and artist who currently lives in Portland OR, and grew up in Olympia, WA. He plays or has played with numerous musical acts including Gossip, The Dirtbombs, Dub Narcotic Sound System, Spider & The Webs, Chain & The Gang, & Hornet Leg. Chris has been so obsessed with records over his life that he writes a vinyl collecting memoir/blog called Record Lections on Instagram and he is often seen Djing his new discoveries in local bars or posting mixes on SoundCloud or Mixcloud. He is also a big fan of visual art with a special passion for African American folk art, Impressionism, European New Wave cinema, and most eras of television. Most of the books he reads, whether fact or fiction, usually have drawings in them. Chris's best friends are his faithful rat terriers Juju and Queenie.