In the minds of the contemporary movie-goer, the word ‘musical’ would easily bring forth memories of movies such as La La Land, Les Miserables, or Mamma Mia. Common among all these three are the extensive use of song numbers across the different scenes throughout the movie. Sometimes aided with dance numbers, musicals have gained a reputation for themselves of being able to masterfully relay a story with the use of songs combined with an excellent soundtrack.
However, it was to my surprise that the word ‘musical’ could potentially have had a different connotation back in 1961. This was the immediate thought that came to my mind as the first few minutes of Jean-Luc Godard’s A Woman is a Woman was being shown. At the mere mention that A Woman is a Woman was going to be a musical, I began to anticipate and imagine the kind of song and dance numbers they had during the 60s. Yet, several minutes into the movie, there was an undeniable lack of song and dance numbers. What I noticed instead was how the soundtrack was being erratically changed from one scene to another. It was only after 10 minutes that I came to realize that perhaps A Woman is a Woman’s classification as a musical referred to the manner in which the music and the soundtrack were utilized in the movie.
Despite the surprise, A Woman is a Woman still proved to be an interesting watch. What struck me at the onset was the abrupt and seemingly unexplained silences that occurred early in the film. Frankly, I thought that the DVD copy that we had could have been damaged but it was at its second occurrence that I realized that these mute scenes were done intentionally. These silences were used in the scene where Angela (Anna Karina), the lead star of the movie, was strolling through the city and was headed towards her workplace, the cabaret. The shift of camera angles, from up close shots of Angela to an overview of her walking in the city, is where these abrupt silences were placed in between the music. What got me thinking was that these silences appeared to be placed randomly. Unlike the masterful use of silence in Anna’s performance at the cabaret, the silences in these scenes seemed unwarranted. The shot was a simple as it is—it showcased a woman walking through what most normal cities look like. It remains a point of interest to me for the scene held no particular importance for it to be given the distinction of silence.
Fortunately, Godard compensates with other aspects of the movie from this small, albeit conspicuous, oddity. The use of color and what can be presumed to be its calculated use throughout the film is laudable. Interlaced from scene to scene, the colors red, blue, green and its plethora of blends are used against a plain background. Angela’s performance at the cabaret is a testament to this. The rotation of colors simply pops out of the screen and distinguishes Angela’s character amongst everyone else.
Overall, A Woman is a Woman can be said to be a movie one can enjoy given its easily digestible plot and interesting use of techniques.