Une femme est une femme (A Woman Is a Woman) was the first film Jean-Luc Godard shot in color. Full of bright, vibrant images that pop off the screen, the film would be memorable for its dazzling cinematography alone. The premise appears straightforward. A stripper (Anna Karina) wants to get pregnant, but her boyfriend (Jean-Claude Brialy) balks so she recruits his best friend (Jean-Paul Belmondo). It seems the perfect setup for Godard to create what he called “a neorealist musical.” Indeed, the homage to American musicals, and to the director Ernst Lubitsch (Belmondo’s character in the film is named Alfred Lubitsch) is unabashed. But in his slyly subversive way, what Godard really seemed intent on was to tear down the fourth wall.
From the movie’s “Lights, camera, action,” introduction to the actors’ ready acknowledgment of the audience to the wink-wink references to other films, Godard’s penchant for improvisation and experiment, traits that would feature heavily in his future work, are getting their tuneup here. Yet, despite the film’s moments of self-awareness, the characters are more than empty vessels. Godard wasn’t a romantic by any stretch, but watch the interaction between Karina and Brialy, and what you see is a relationship on the brink. A young couple beginning to understand that maintaining a relationship requires more than love to hold it together.