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January 26, 2005

I watched À Bout De Souffle last night, of which I remembered only bits and pieces from my initial viewing ten (oh my god, ten) years ago, and also Une Femme Est Une Femme, which I almost feel like calling my second favorite Godard film now, of the ones I've seen (my favorite being Vivre Sa Vie). Its prize at the Berlin Film Festival cited the film's 'impertinence' as a factor in the award; I could hardly think of a better word to describe it, except for 'vivacious,' 'sensuous,' 'intoxiating,' 'ridiculous' and 'so-vibrant-it-made-me-want-to-plunge-my-head-through-the-screen.'

And I can think of one or two people who might roll their eyes when I say this, but twenty minutes into the film, I couldn't stop thinking about how much it reminded me of Kill Bill (I wish I could say it was the other way around, but hey, better late than never), a comparison Tarantino would surely love but which Godard might shudder at. Neveretheless, and scale notwithstanding, the similarities seemed obvious: Godard referenced, replicated, deconstructed the stylistic traits of both entire genres and individual films, from Singin' In The Rain to Pillow Talk, to accentuate his slightly off-color romantic comedy, just as Tarantino pillaged a variety of sources to spin his revenge tale.

The similarities began to fade when it became clear that Godard did not take his story quite as seriously as Tarantino did his. At a certain point, Godard starts referencing himself as much as the other films, and in the end, I think the entire purpose of Une Femme Est Une Femme is the gross sum of those references, and the manner in which they're utilized, disected, turned on their head, or simply honored; Anna Karina's wink to the camera at the very end is far more important to the film than her character's narrative resolution. On the other hand, the cliches drop from Kill Bill with a telling rapidity as the story nears its conclusion, and Tarantino never quite references himself (aside from certain cigarette ads in the background, trunk-cam shots and the appearance of Samuel L. Jackson). His film picks up weight, for better or for worse, whereas Godard's is practically a dirigible. Again, for better or worse, depending on your point of view.

My point of view, obviously, casts both filmmakers in an immensely favorable light. The stories for both films -- a stripper who wants to have a baby, an assassin seeking revenge for her child's murder -- are substantial enough to warrant serious and realistic, non-referential approaches, but then Une Femme Est Une Femme wouldn't be a Godard film and Kill Bill wouldn't be a Tarantino film, and that, in my opinion, would be a loss.

Take these comments with a grain of salt: I'm too much of a Godardian initiate to discourse upon his work with anything more than a fleeting fraction of a notion of authority. I do know, though, that my theory can be at least partially qualified by the fact that both of these films I've discussed can be viewed as works of adoration made by filmmakers obsessed with their leading actresses.

And I'm sure I'll be joining that club some day...

Posted by David Lowery at January 26, 2005 3:16 AM


It's Une Femme, man, Une Femme.
I'm glad you liked it though, it's definately one of my favorites (Bande à Part taking the cake).
And I've often made a small, sort-of comparison of Tarantino to Godard in just the way you described.
Thanks for writing my thoughts down so well, I will now use them as often as I can.

And congrats on the film. Here's hoping you go all the way.

Posted by: ranemaka13 at January 26, 2005 8:54 PM

And there I was trying to sound distinguished by using the French titles, rather than the far less lyrical translations I'm so used to! I'll never win.

Thanks for the well-wishing...hopefully the film will go somewhere, if not quite all the way.

Posted by: Ghostboy at January 26, 2005 9:02 PM