A Woman is a Woman: Criterion Collection

January 28, 2012 6 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

Angela (Anna Karina) is a beautiful woman who lives with Emile (Jean-Claude Brialy), but the romance is by no means hot. Angela works as a stripped at an upscale club, while Emile loves to keep himself in shape, usually by riding his prized bicycle. He pays the bills through his bookstore, which he owns and keeps a close eye on. He likes to figure out his customers before they purchase a book, to see if he can nail their personalities. Angela has given a lot of thought to the future and what it could hold, to the extent that she has made some decisions. She wants to have a baby and settle down a little, so of course, she approaches Emile about her wishes. Emile agrees that the two should have a child, but he insists that now is not the proper time. This upsets Angela to no end, as she wants a baby now and is convinced her decision is correct. Emile’s refusal doesn’t mean her idea is doomed however, as the couple’s best friend Alfred (Jean-Paul Belmondo) would love to take over Emile’s position. This is well known, but Alfred will not be around forever for Angela to count on, so she is pressed to make some tough choices. Angela is torn between the two men, as she has intense feelings toward Emile, but he refuses to do what Alfred offers. Which of the two men will she choose and in the end, will she have her child?

This was Jean-Luc Godard’s second feature film, but A Woman is a Woman doesn’t rank with his finest motion pictures. His style is evident here and he directs with immense skill at times, but there isn’t a consistent level of performance. That is to say, some scenes work like masterpieces and others don’t even warrant a look. If the entire picture could have been as good as the best scenes, this could have been a classic. But instead, we have a decent, but unremarkable movie that is home to a handful of terrific sequences. Godard tries to make A Woman is a Woman too cute and campish, which backfires at times. A more subtle approach might have delivered better results, but then the film’s charm would be lessened. So if you try to balance out the ineffective elements, you wind up removing the effective ones also. I wouldn’t say A Woman is a Woman is a bad movie however, not even close, as it provides a solid level of entertainment. And the erratic, off balance tone is part of Godard’s plan for the movie, though it doesn’t pan out that well. So I do wish it were more consistent and had more of Godard’s signature direction elements, but even as it stands, I am glad I took the time to see A Woman is a Woman. I still recommend this movie to fans of Godard, though a rental is probably the best approach.

Video: How does it look?

A Woman is a Woman is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. This is a marked improvement over the previous DVD release, which was also in widescreen, but lacked anamorphic enhancement. The digital restoration work done has yielded an incredible image, one that never suffers from debris or nicks. That is impressive work, as this movie is well over three decades old, though no ill effects of time can be seen. The grain is minimal and what is there is natural, so the image is never hindered in the least. I was stunned by how bold and rich the colors look here, the kind of hues that almost stream right off the screen. And this movie loves to use those vivid colors, so that is an important issue. I saw no problems with contrast either, so this yet another superb treatment from Criterion.

Audio: How does it sound?

The original French soundtrack is preserved here, via a restored, better than expected mono option. The result is a welcome pleasure, as the music is now rich and natural, which makes the entire experience more enjoyable. This is just mono after all, but there is some depth to be heard, especially during the music driven sequences. So don’t expect a powder keg of dynamic audio, but there is some life here. The dialogue is clean and clear throughout, so no errors in that department to report. In case you need to brush up on French, this release includes new and improved English subtitles as well.

Supplements: What are the extras?

An early short film by Godard titled All Boys are Called Patrick is a treat, while an interview with some stars provides behind the scenes information. An audio commentary track, especially one with the key cast members and Godard, would have been nice, but this is still a nice edition. This disc also includes some poster artwork, an audio promotional piece, still photos, and the film’s original theatrical trailer.

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