A Woman is a Woman

The Moviegoer

If, like Professor Higgins, you frequently ask yourself, "Why can't a woman be more like a man?" and go on to mumble that men are decent, noble, honest, thoroughly square, and ready to buck you up whenever you are glum, then A Woman is a Woman will traumatize the hell out of you.

Remember Francaise Dorleac in That Man from Rio? She instilled in that chef d'oeuvre two simple messages: 1) Women are trouble; 2) If you've got to ask whether they're worth it, well, you'd better just skedaddle right on out of Belmondo's league. Jean-Luc Goddard has embraced this prehistoric theme, Paris, and Anna Karina, in a long, zany bear-hug.

When the male apexes of Anna's triangle cooly show a united front and announce that she must choose between them, she thinks (if you can call it that) and smiles. "Very well," she decides. "I will choose the one who can do the best tricks." So, of course, both swains make idiots of themselves for five minutes. "If I knock my head against a wall would that prove that I love you?" pleads Belmondo in baffled desperation. "Perhaps," muses Anna. So he jumps up, zooms out of the cafe and across the street, head first into a brick building. She's unmoved.

But shazam! A great black gap in the consciousness of Simone de Beauvoir is illuminated. You see, Simone, "femininity" is not just some poetic veil of man's invention, woven to trick ladies into washing dishes and minding babies. A woman isn't just a man with a dress hung on him. A woman (and Godard's film saturates an imbeclic title with frightening profundity) is a woman.

She cannot be manipulated, wheedled, reasoned with. She's a whole different order of being, a whole different wave length, indomitable as a cat. Try to figure out what is in her head and you will go crazy. Inundate her in care and affection and she'll hop into another bed. Give up, or throw her down the stairs, and she will adore you. But not consistently.

It's a shame that Godard never realized the "feminity" he manages to portray goes deeper than Anna's wish to have a baby--the flimsy device upon which he hinges her infidelity. It goes way, way down to an unshakeable confidence in her own desirability, and with that, to the secret knowledge that she can get away with anything.

This real basis of Anna's wheeling and dealing breeds a narcissistic injunction: let nothing escape; take what you can, even if you do a little wrong. Never let an opportunity go by. Life is so short, and death inevitable. And because this is meant especially sexually, and because desire is unwilling to check itself with the thought of doing wrong, Anna's intuitive philosophy of carpe diem, her unabashed "femininity," can drive any male to distraction.

But because she is so terribly much--so beautiful, so bright--we forgive her again and again, and love her all the more.

Women. They're nothing but exasperating, irritating, vacillating, calculating, agitating, maddening, and infuriating hags, But by and large we must agree with Godard, not with Higgins. They are a marvelous sex.