Une Femme Mariée Review
Jean Luc, Godard, not Besson and certainly not Piccard, was responsible amongst others of creating the French New Wave, La Nouvelle Vague, of cinema back in the late Fifties / early Sixties. The Swinging Sixties were an experimental time, admittedly more towards the end of the decade, with free speech, free love and a wider freedom of expression coming about in music. Writing and cinema laid the ground work though by producing its own tangential works much earlier in the decade.
Godard wanted to add a certain style and class to movies; he wanted them to reflect reality in all its glory, warts and all. After all he felt that the continued bubble gum produced year in year out by the suits at Hollywood bore little resemblance to art as such and more entertainment for the delinquent masses. Well I for one am happy to be one of those delinquents, however I still appreciate thoughtful, respectful cinema like anyone else frequenting these forums. Obviously a generalisation, Godard did enjoy some American work; he just thought that what was mass produced was not worthy of the celluloid it was developed on.
Producing a crop of films in the early Sixties, Une Femme Mariée (The Married Woman) is one in a wealth of movies which contain all the fundamentals of a Godard piece; political ideologies, cinema references, stunning, crafted visuals and at times almost meaningless, over the top existential philosophical dialogue as one person meanders through their thoughts pondering on their own existence.
Charlotte (Macha Méril) is a run of the mill French married woman who has become bored with her routine lifestyle. Married to a pilot (Philippe Leroy) she survives from day to day only because of the fantasy life she has built up for herself. One such fantasy though has come to fruition, that of taking on a young attractive, more exciting lover: an actor Robert (Bernard Noël). She questions the nature of her relationship with her lover and his attitude towards her. It seems her relationships only come second to the fantasy figure and perfect bust she is trying to achieve.
Godard has his usual swipes at Hollywood, with Charlotte indicating she prefers the sterile fantasy of the American movies as opposed to the realism the Europeans create. He also goes on to indicate that cinema is a complex medium and here he is in fact referring to the potential of European cinema and not those imported from foreign shores. Godard realised that the mass produced films emanating from Hollywood were almost corrupting the youth, not giving them an avenue for their minds, but merely supplying them with endless repeats of the same style and type of film. He also understood that the mass marketing of any product would infect the consumers to such an extent the pursuit of commercialism would take over their lives. Godard shows this facet here quite well. His underlying theme though is that of woman analysing her own lifestyle, seeing if she matches up to the wealth of commercials she is subjected to each and every day.
Charlotte is not content, she is unhappy with her marriage (understandably so as she is often raped and beaten), she prefers the company of her lover, she knows it to be 'wrong' but loves the excitement that is brings her. Her main passion though is of developing the perfect bust size and dimension. She reads article after article on breast measurement and structure, her senses are bombarded from every conceivable angle about the body perfect and Godard backs this up with some excellent cinematography. Shots of Charlotte's shoulders, her slight hand on a white bed sheet, her thighs or her stomach all show us that Charlotte herself has become the very adverts that she has been absorbing all of these years, and her life has become diluted because of this. All of this can be gleaned from Godard's film without a word of dialogue.
I can appreciate Godard's work from a visual standpoint, and Une Femme Mariée is no different in that regard. At times he uses celluloid in its purest form, telling us a story with a storm of images and edits with no need for any dialogue; visual imagery at its best. His dialogue though does suck I'm afraid. I do find it trying, overly philosophical and definitely not needed to back up the story he is trying to tell. If I wanted to be philosophical then it would not be in Black and White, would certainly not be in French and probably never be sober, but each to their own.
Godard is quoted as saying..."A story should have a beginning, a middle and an end... but not necessarily in that order" and this is no more true than what we see here. There is no beginning nor end to this story; it is simply a snapshot of Charlotte's life over a period of a few days. We are set there as voyeurs not to judge nor imitate but simply to observe and internally reflect how mass consumerism and advertising is affecting society and how we, as part of that society, are manipulated without our being aware of it.
As mentioned above I found this to be an engaging film but wished that I could have watched it with the score being the only audio option. I found the actual dialogue trying, testing and ultimately boring and pretty pointless. There are two distinct passages though which do essentially sum up how Charlotte categorises those people around her, specifically her husband and her lover. She asks each the same, but subtlety different, question and this slight change does in fact speak volumes for what she is thinking and feeling at the time. Apart from that it's just a little too arty for my own liking and ultimately I think for its own good. Visually stunning though there is enough in there to show a detailed, evolving storyline. If it was silent then perhaps this could have raised an eight (and an eyebrow), however, playing as it does, it lapses back to a seven. Enjoyable but that dialogue does get a little tiring at times.