“Is this a tragedy or a comedy? Either way it’s a masterpiece,” says Émile Récamier. At first, Une Femme Est Une Femme presents itself to its viewers a seemingly simple and straightforward plot: the main character, Angela wants a baby. Yet, the film is far from uncomplicated because of the way Jean-Luc Godard wanted the narrative to play out. By having an ambiguous genre, unpredictable characters, and witty pokes on musicals, watching this leaves its audience dazed and thinking.
Boxing the movie into a certain stereotype is almost impossible, because it breaks many of our preconceived notions of what a romantic comedy or a musical—let alone film—should be. Angela, with her do-it-herself attitude explains quite explicitly early on while singing and dancing, “I’d like to be in a musical…with Cyd Charisse…and Gene Kelly…Choreography…by Bob Fosse!”. Scenes like this, together with the abrupt music cuts, allow us to realize that this is not your typical movie. For one, the characters seem to break the fourth wall many times and obviously at that. Another notable scene is when the main characters Angela and Émile are arguing with each other, then it cuts straight to them kissing afterwards. It makes viewers feel as though they are being reminded that we are not just watching these people’s lives, but that everything is one big, entertaining spectacle.
Even though we are constantly being reminded that this is a work of fiction, one can’t help but notice Godard’s play on realism. The outward façade of the film and its supposedly simple plot actually unfolds not long after to show us the real situation of Angela. Viewers begin to understand more what is going on inside the quirky exotic dancer, as we follow her throughout the day, and even fight with her lover, Émile. Love and relationships are not uncommon topics in art, after all. At one point, she says, “It’s not fair. It’s always when you’re with someone that you’re not with them. And vice versa.” This scene is particularly striking because we get to see things in her point of view, literally. Clips of strangers walking past and staring into the camera makes audiences realize this is what she goes through on a daily basis.
While the overall theme might seem heavy, the movie mixes in just the right amount of comedy and satire to keep us from thinking that this is solely a drama. Some of the comedy was physical, like Angela trying to slam the door but failing thrice, or the couple arguing by taking turns holding the lamp and looking for books with insults in the title. Other times it was through clever dialogue, such as when Alfred outsmarted the bartender with the question, “Answer yes, and I owe you 100 francs. Answer no, and you owe me 100, okay? Can you loan me 100 francs?”
But what some of us miss is that the film is not about whether or not the couple gets back together and lives happily ever after. It is a narrative that talks about womanhood and freedom through its main star of the film, Angela. The number of times she changes her alone gives us an indication of what kind of woman she is—unpredictable. In one of the scenes, she asks Émile if he would rather have fish or meat for dinner. Even though he would always choose the exact opposite of what she actually made, she still managed to present her well-done roast beef to him. Taking it into a larger scale, even though Émile was against having a baby with her at first, in the end Angela got what she wanted. The film ends with him telling her, “Angela, you are horrid,” and her reply being, “No, I am a woman,” together with a playful wink.
But although she is very unique and has her own quirks, this film talks about women in a general sense as well. A lot of the time, their dialogue gives us a peek into what actually goes on in women’s minds. Sometimes it is playfully, like when she tells Alfred to stop avoiding the question, but when he states he is just following her example, she remarks, “Women are allowed to avoid the question.” Other times it is in a somber mood, like when she is crying in the kitchen and says that we should boycott women who don’t cry. All of these are realities that we are all too familiar with, such as that sometimes women don’t say what they mean, but other times they do as they are complicated. But one thing is for certain—women always get what they want in the end.