Une Femme Mariee

Koch Lorber, 1964, Not Rated

Jul 15, 2009 at 2:06 pm

The career of French auteur Jean-Luc Godard can be viewed in stages: a celebrated debut with the Nouvelle Vague; a controversial, confrontational, Maoist phase; and an uncompromising, artistically vibrant period that runs into the present and finds the onetime enfant terrible of the press working far from the spotlight. Une Femme Mariee (A Married Woman) from 1964 stems from phase one, and, though an early work, it’s one by a confident artist at the top of his game with some of his best films (Breathless, My Life to Life, A Woman Is a Woman, Contempt, Band of Outsiders) already under his belt. The story is one of Godard’s most conventional. A linear narrative broken up into thematic acts details a day in the life of a married woman (the beautiful Macha Meril) who is torn between her pilot husband and actor lover. The indecision renders her into an image-conscious child, cemented in a perpetual present where the past and future and their consequences are non-existent. Godard’s direction is anything but conventional, however. Close-up studies of body parts, shots of newspaper copy, street signs and various media, Warhol-esque Screen Test interviews, self-reflexive flashes of cinema icons like Hitchcock and Dietrich and other innovative techniques combine to create coded compositions that reveal cultural, sociological and psychological subtexts, from obsessions with fashion, beauty and superficiality to broader questions dealing with truth, love, deception and fidelity. The stylistic excesses never distract, though, instead giving the chamber drama weight and immediate impact. Grade: A