A Woman Is A Woman, like its title character, sets out to toy with her captivated audience, and break as many rules as she can and find the next best thing to a happy ending. The rest of the film is a series of detours, gags, and narrative butchery that have become key signifiers of the film’s now-iconic status. In this sense, the film is a con job on an audience thought to be well-versed, even jaded, when considering romantic comedies – A Woman Is A Woman, like a successful criminal, gets what it wants, and leaves its victims feeling more naïve than they thought was possible.
A Woman Is A Woman’s greatest trick lies in its ability to create and commit to the narrative contradictions it utilizes. Angela is the most empowered exotic dancer, at the most polite and carefree strip club, in cinematic history. She and her boyfriend argue, then decide to stop talking to eachother, yet continue the argument nonetheless via written text. The film includes a musical number, but divorces the music and the lyrics. “Is this a tragedy or a farce?”, one of the two leading men asks the other. A Woman has the audacity to attempt to be both, and is all the better for it. “Either way, it’s a masterpiece.”, the other replies.
Where European films are allegedly known to subvert and avert Hollywood tropes of storytelling and traditional audiovisual technical work, A Woman Is A Woman instead inverts its every given trope, playing its plot for parody instead of criticism. Where a stylistically mainstream film would treat the scene where Angela tells Alfred to wait for her signal via awnings as straightforward, by having her send him a clear signal of her leaving Emile, or a subversive film would have her send no signal and leave Alfred waiting, or an aversive tactic that would do away with the sequence, considering its eventual outcome, the film plays with this dramatic tool, and toys with the audience the way Angela does, by sending Alfred mixed signals, and us a comedic situation out of a dramatic setup. The same can be said of the arc of the film’s love story – all the romantic drama set up falls on its own sword and becomes laughable. The film refuses to subject the tension between its 3 leads to tropes reserved for dramatic, all-consuming love triangles Romance genre-savvy audiences were accustomed to. The film’s most out-of-place scene is also its most typical: One where dramatic & diegetic music foregrounds Angela’s contemplation of the melodrama she’s currently embroiled in.
All these elements work towards an ending that flips off the conventions of romance as told by Hollywood – that love stories end with either a grand gesture and a comedic quip, or heartbreak and separation. A Woman Is A Woman chooses all these things, Angela turning a choice that would be simple in another, serious storyThe so-called resolution leaves its audience with the feeling that things are only going to get increasingly complicated for the characters and their relationships, but at least, for once, the story of a relationship, and the woman bringing it to hell and back, is allowed to be this complicated – the knot that the film twists itself into is what makes it remarkable.