In 1964, shortly after the premiere of Bande à Part at Cannes, Jean-Luc Godard approached Columbia Pictures with a proposition that must have seemed quite a turn: He wanted to make a melodrama about a love triangle.
This being Godard, however, that proved not so much a template as a vague suggestion — and indeed Une Femme Mariée is hardly recognizable as a love triangle melodrama at all.
Of more interest to Godard than romance was the intellectual climate of Europe in the mid-Sixties. A sort of mass delusion, he felt, had begun to seize the young, manifesting itself in historical ignorance and prevailing trivialities like TV and fashion magazines. The Auschwitz trials, meanwhile, were in full swing in Frankfurt; Godard resented that his country scarcely seemed to care. “Memory is no fun,” insists Charlotte, the young heroine of the film. “In the present, I don’t have time to reflect, I can’t think.” It’s a superficiality of thought Godard perceived as dangerous — and one that still resonates.
The film heralded a major leap in Godard’s evolution as an artist, announcing the arrival of a sophistication further honed the next year in Alphaville and Pierrot le Fou. But it’s also an extraordinarily rich and provocative picture in its own right. A half-century after its release Une Femme Mariée remains among the least well-known films of Godard’s early period, having for some reason never achieved the easy ubiquity of, say, Breathless or Vivre Sa Vie. It’s time that changed.
A Married Woman
Written and directed by Jean-Luc Godard
Cohen Film Collection
Opens December 4, BAMcinématek