The very first words that may come to mind while watching Goddard’s A Woman is a Woman: eccentric, different, and inarguably avant-garde. From the execution of the film to the actual premise of the story itself, almost everything about the film seemed to pointedly go against traditional Hollywood cinema.
The very beginnings of the movie lulled me into believing that the story’s premise would semble normalcy, simply because it reminded me of Breakfast at Tiffany’s (with the quirky, independent female protagonist living in a rather modest apartment, and her apparent string of admirers). However, the parallels end there, especially when the male protagonist comes into the picture. Perhaps I am simply unused to such an untraditional romantic relationship as theirs- maybe relationships like this are considered normal in Europe. Nonetheless, the narrative is merely the beginning of what makes the film so compelling to watch.
If there was one thing that made this film similar to Hollywood, it was that it was entertaining – in mainstream cinema, there is a need to entertain viewers in order to sustain our interest. Through its hilarity, the captivating female lead and to some extent the two male protagonists, the film was (at least in my case) successful in this sense. However, what separates this film from Classical Hollywood is that while it did entertain, it by no means allowed for benevolence nor transparency – a lot of the time I was rather confused, flabbergasted by the ridiculousness of their relationship, and the fact that almost absolutely everything else was portrayed in such a way that demanded viewers to remember that this was a film – from the fourth wall break at the very beginning, to the outright ridiculous scenarios the characters acted on screen (e.g., the ‘We’re Not Talking’ scene). At times, the narrative seemed completely non-sequitur, with some scenes that seemingly don’t contribute at all to the central plot. While there is a singular storyline and conflict, the film seems disjointed and disconnected, broken by several moments that are downright absurd. An example would be the completely random sequence where the police arrive at their apartment announcing that a terrorist threw a bomb – this sequence wherein no significant action takes place, and overall seems superfluous to the unfolding of the story. Another, more direct example of this (re: continuity editing) was the scene wherein the female protagonist threw up an egg, picked up the phone, and went back for the egg, catching it once more in the pan after being away for a significant portion of time.
Furthermore, I liked how the music stopped and started at random intervals. Music in a film is meant to guide and enhance our responses to the story. Here, however, the music seems to be the only thing that makes this film a musical, overlaid over normal conversations amongst the characters. It also provided a semblance of continuity. Thus, while the scenes seemed intransitive, it was not reckless, as every scene was beautifully done regardless, both visually, performance-wise, and otherwise – I wasn’t mad at its disjointedness.
Overall, it was a wake-up call to the fact that the rules normally followed in cinema are not sacrosanct, and that a film can be enjoyable despite its obvious plausibility. Mainstream superhero movies aren’t realistic, too, after all – the only reason this film seemed more implausible was its portrayal of normal people, in a normal setting, portraying their story in a non-normal way – not allowing viewers to be lulled into immersing themselves into the film. The film was charming in its absurdity and ability to make viewers do a double-take, but also laugh at the blatant comedy and haphazard, abject non-realistic scenes on screen. I was confused, but completely entranced all throughout. And at the end of the absurdity, the message of the film A Woman is a Woman was made clear – “Damn you” “No, a dame, me” – one way or another, women ALWAYS get what we want.