Saturday, May 23, 2009

A Married Woman

By David Luhrssen
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A woman’s hand, followed by a man’s arm, touch on a blank white surface. The man’s voice is heard as the back of her head appears. Most scenes to follow are acutely aware of themselves as being a film, an artifact, not merely a window onto reality.

Out June 2 on DVD, Jean-Luc Godard’s Une Femme Mariee (A Married Woman) peers more deeply into reality than most “realistic” movies. In his 1964 production, filmed in black and white and often in meaningful fragments (sometimes virtually a sequence of still photos or pans of newsprint or magazine ads), Godard explores the life of a woman with a husband and a lover in a society where everything, especially sex, has been turned into a commodity, transmogrified from life to abstraction. Most of the dialogue is as pointedly banal as the script of an avant-garde play. Neither man in her life seems particularly aware of her as a person, seeing her as a collection of fascinating parts. Her self-awareness grows, as does the realization of the double-standard governing relations between men and women.

Une Femme Mariee is a peak achievement for Godard, who a few years earlier helped launch the French New Wave with Breathless. Formally daring and intellectually provocative, Une Femme Mariee was one of the last stops before Godard descended into the doubtful experimentation and dubious propaganda that categorized the long twilight of his career.

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