Une Femme Mariée (1964) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Une Femme Mariée (1964)

Danny no longer writes for Can't Stop the Movies, and can be reached at his fantastic site Pre-Code.com

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Danny INDIFFERENTYou run into dangers writing about movies. Any director who has a film or two in the Criterion Collection often already has an intimidatingly huge body of work written about themselves, and when you approach a living titan with six or seven like Ingmar Bergman or Jean-Luc Godard, you had either better start studying or approach the film in such a radical direction that everyone will either acknowledge you as brilliant or mad.

Sadly, I am neither of these (though I lean towards mad regardless), so today you're going to have to settle with some elementary observations and shallow criticism. The legions who hold Godard next to God will be unimpressed, those who have no idea who he is will be left scratching their heads. All the readers go home unhappy, never return, and I end up drunk and reviewing the next Rich Christiano film, which I think involves someone using time travel to learn the errors of poor copy writing. Fun!

Une Femme Mariée (or A Married Woman for those of us whose French isn't that great) is the story of Charlotte, a woman who is married and also carrying on an affair. Most of the plot depends on revealing Charlotte's vain neediness and how that effects the relationship with her lovers.

So needy that she must be kissed by a man with only a lower jaw constantly. Or not.

Mind you, Charlotte isn't vain for lack of a reason. Her world is peppered full of magazines and advertisements filled with lingerie and secrets to pleasing men. She delves into them with about as much passion as she attaches to each love affair, it's fairly obvious that one feeds another; to be appreciated, she needs admirers, and to get admirers, she must make herself up to be appreciated. Whether this ego is self perpetuating or caused by a society maddened with libidinal urges is probably up for the viewer to debate, but she does what she does to feel good.

Much of the film, like a lot of Godard's work, feels episodic. Experimental as usual, he starts the film with long shots of the Charlotte and her illicit lover in embraces. These aren't the usual Harlequin novel cover romance poses, though, as Robert, the lover, strokes her naked body with his hands and slowly works his way up to her neck. There, he surrounds it, his grip tantalizingly close to tightening.

Playing tricks like this-- turning a romantic scenario into something subtly threatening-- all speak to Godard's usual fascination with both visual storytelling and playfully abstract dialogue. We get many bits spent of him toying with the audience's perspective, from the scene of a gaggle of swimsuit models shot in the manner of a photo negative to the records Charlotte loves that are filled with nothing but laughter. He also cheekily proclaims the film is in black and white by way of a title card and soon thereafter has a character chastise people who see things in that manner as anti-intellectual.

There's a lot of cannibalism in this film. Also a theme!

There are other touches further put you in Charlotte's head, from his constant need to observe her from the outside of the building she is in (like you're on the outside looking in!) or the way planes always zoom around in her head, bringing her husband to mind.

Une Femme Mariée ends up like a number of Godard's less urgent films, a slow ponderous work that can either be deconstructed shot by shot or swallowed whole. The trouble with switching styles every five minutes is to whether all the experimentation forms into a cohesive, forward moving narrative. Do the characters grow and learn, or is the audience left apathetic as another vignette stops the plot for some self aggrandizing?

Some people obviously care about this more than others. While it's fun watching Godard playing, his characters seem to wander off halfway through Une Femme Mariée, and he barely seems to notice.

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Posted by Danny

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  1. Phew! I thought it was just me. Godard made my all-time favourite film, Pierrot Le Fou, and exciting stuff like Aphaville and Breathless (at least, the first time you see it) but he also made a string of nearly unwatchable turkeys, and this is one of them. I fell asleep 20 minutes before the end. Did watch the end, though, since I’d bought the Blu-ray. Don’t think I’ll be reading the 80-page booklet, though. Wouldn’t recommend this to anyone. Your review is as fair as can be.

    • Thanks for the comment Waldo! Danny and I ended up running at about the same hot / cold ratio when it comes to Godard. Pierrot Le Fou and Breathless are stellar, I’d even throw Band of Outsiders in there, but Une Femme Marie and 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her are where I have to tap out.

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