Australian Journal of French Studies

The Difficulty of Being “Modern Woman”: Jean-Luc Godard’s Une femme est une femme

Australian Journal of French Studies (2015), 52, (2), 139–148.

Abstract

Scholarship on Jean-Luc Godard’s Une femme est une femme (1961) generally describes the film as not only lightweight but also sexist and condescending. The film’s protagonist, Angéla (Anna Karina), has been described as an imbecile, and Karina herself nothing more than a demiurge and a woman-child. However, Godard came upon the subject of the film while thinking about “musical neorealism”, a conjunction he invents and describes as an absolute contradiction. These two contradictory elements, neorealism and the musical, mirror the ambiguous position of Angéla as a woman in France in the 1960s. If Angéla is described as “dopey” or lacking depth, it is because her depth lies elsewhere, in the social contradictions of which she is a figure. This article proposes a more complex reading of Angéla and examines the way Godard’s film presages many feminist/post-feminist debates that would not surface until much later.

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CHAPLIN, FELICITY