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Episode 25 - A Woman Is A Woman

posted Jun 17, 2017, 12:02 AM by Joreth InnKeeper

A Woman Is A Woman (1961) 
www.imdb.com/title/tt0055572/ - Internet Movie Data Base
https://dvd.netflix.com/Movie/70000934 - Netflix
http://amzn.to/2rfXqIt - Amazon

What do you get when you take two people who don't like each other, who want totally different things out of a relationship, who are pigheaded and argumentative, and throw them together in a movie with odd music cues that stop abruptly whenever there is dialog, and random breaking of the 4th wall?

It's a trick question because you already know that you get this movie.

What an odd, odd film. Maybe it was the era, or maybe it was the culture, but I totally didn't get this movie.

Made in 1961 in France, the summary says "Striptease artist Angela is desperate to have a child, but her boyfriend, Emile, isn't as anxious. Although he cares for Angela and wants to keep their relationship going, he is not ready for that kind of responsibility. Instead, he suggests that she get together with his buddy Alfred -- a proposal Angela ultimately accepts, to Emile's shock and dismay."

It was the "shock and dismay" that gave me such low expectations of this movie. It's hard to be confused and feeling like I've just wasted 2 hours when I went into the movie expecting it to suck. But it managed to exceed my expectations quite spectacularly ... in the worst way.

We meet Angela strolling through France. She runs into a couple of different guys, at least one of whom professes his undying sexual attraction to her. Another, we learn later, is her live-in lover. She is running late. We finally see that she is on her way to a skeezy little dive of a strip club, where she's about to perform. And, by "perform", I mean "sing a song about how gorgeous she is while taking off her sailor dress that involves the music coming to an abrupt halt whenever she has to sing, but starting up again when the verse ends". And it's not just this song, the whole first 20 minutes of the movie are like this, with music that the audience can hear but is not an internal part of the scene, stopping abruptly every time someone has a line. It was so jarring, it was as if the movie was made by a film student who was unable to mix music and dialog together so he just cut the track. Except that later, he does mix them together, so this must have been a deliberate choice.

So she does her little strip tease (if that's what passes for "art" in France, I'm afraid the country is deserving of all the cheap shots the English & Americans take at it), and then gets dressed backstage and goes home, where she putters around the kitchen as if to prepare dinner. But, the way it's done seems to be as if she had a secret life as a stripper and was coming home to a husband who didn't know anything about it. Her neighbor even made the roast they're having for dinner (her neighbor, the prostitute, who owns the only phone in the building).

But it's not a secret life. I'm not sure what kind of life it is, but it's not secret. So now we learn that Angela wants a baby, and when her partner, Emile, comes home, they have the most non-sequitur conversation I've ever heard that eventually results in Angela requesting a baby *tonight* and Emile refusing.  I've heard more sensible conversations between Alice and various insects and flowers than what I heard in this movie.

So Emile instead offers to have his friend, Alfred, father Angela's baby, which is why this got put on a poly movie list in the first place. Angela doesn't believe he's serious, so she takes him up on the offer, but Emile's pride won't let him back down.  So even though he doesn't want Alfred to father her baby, he yells out the window to Alfred and invites him upstairs anyway.

Alfred comes upstairs to an obviously upset Angela and Emile, and after some arguing, he is finally told why he was called upstairs. So he agrees, and he and Angela go into the bathroom, since there is no separate bedroom in their studio apartment.

While they're in the bathroom, Emile rides his bicycle around the dining room table and glares at the door, and Angela and Alfred make halting and awkward conversation in the bathroom. Eventually Alfred leaves without getting any, and he and Emile go out for drinks & to pick up chicks while Angela sits at home and broods.

The two men find a couple of women who seem extremely pissed off to be there, and the guys drag the girls to the strip club where Angela works, only to find Angela already there and hitting on a guy who seems totally uninterested in her. As far as I can tell, Angela and Emile live across the street from the strip club, the bar, the TV store, the newspaper stand, the bookstore, the restaurant, and Alfred, judging by how often they run out to the various locations and how quickly they get from place to place.  Also, there's a couple who have been stapled together at the mouth and pinned to the wall outside Emile's and Angela's apartment building, presumably as a warning from a fascist government with overzealous police as a warning against public kissing.  At least, I assume that's what happened, since they don't move throughout the entire 2 days of the movie, not even to change clothing.

Anyway, Angela randomly gets up in the middle of one of the girl's "dances", shouts "you disgust me" and runs out of the skeezy strip club, while Emile sits at the table with his unwilling date, smokes, and glares at Angela exiting from across the room.

I thought the non-sequitur argument earlier was strange, but I didn't know from strange! Next is Angela and Emile going back and forth between calling each other darling and bastard. The two climb onto their tiny mattress on the floor to go to bed, each one having to say "no, we're not talking" last. Then Angela gets back up, turns on the light, carries it with her to the living room, grabs a book, brings it back to bed, and holds it up accusingly at Emile. She covers the title so that the only word visible is "monster".

So Emile grabs the lamp, drags it into the other room, selects a book, brings it back to bed, and writes on it "go to hell". Then they both jump up, grab an armful of books, and proceed to cover up titles and show books to each other calling each other names and basically telling each other to fuck off.

The next day, Angela is still begging for a baby and Emile is still insulting her. He goes off to work, and Alfred calls Angela and asks her to meet him at a bar. So she does, and she flirts, and Alfred tells her that he loves her, but she doesn't believe him. Then we spend the next 3 minutes watching Angela smoke and give puppy-dog eyes at a photo of Emile on a date with the woman from the night before, while the most horrendous song plays on the jukebox.  I know it's horrendous, because the director made a point of featuring this song with absolutely no dialogue to interrupt the lyrics, which included things like "you've let yourself go" and "I don't know what I ever saw in you" and "you disgust me" and "your curlers are ugly, you need to exercise".  

Eventually, Angela tries to leave, and tells Alfred to wait on the street outside of their building and to watch the window blinds. If she lowers the blinds within 5 minutes, it means she's coming back down to sleep with Alfred, but if she leaves the blinds up, it means that they've made up and Angela is not coming back to Alfred.

He waits.  And waits.  And waits.  And waits.  Another strange thing about France is that it is apparently custom for men to approach a stranger on the street who is smoking, hold out their own cigarettes, and expect the stranger to light their cigarettes for them using his own cigarette.  Because that's what Alfred does for approximately 2,493 passersby.  Or maybe it's just 6.  Either way, it was weird.

Angela and Emile have another one of their non-sequitur arguments on the stairs outside of their apartment where they call each other names, then kiss, then pout, then kiss, then name-call again. Eventually Alfred gives up, and Emile storms out. So Angela goes to Alfred's house with the intention of sleeping with him. Emile comes back home, finds Angela gone, and calls Alfred's house to find her.

He passes along a message to Angela that she understands to mean that Emile is leaving her. So she gets up, gets dressed, and leaves Alfred. Angela comes home, walks around the house, turning on her heel whenever Emile steps in her path, and eventually backs herself into a corner. She finally confesses to sleeping with Alfred, which pisses off Emile (remember, it was his suggestion in the first place). So now, angry at each other and just after Angela's confession, they get undressed and climb into bed together!

The lights go out, and then come back on, and the two go back to the bookshelves. Only this time, Angela holds up a book that says "Even if you don't still love me, I still love you". So Emile thinks about things for a while, then suggests that, if he hurries and fucks her, maybe the baby will be his instead of Alfred's. Angela agrees. They have sex, and when the lights come on again, Emile says "close call!" and laughs.

Angela asks why he's laughing, and he says "Because you are shameless". She replies "Am I not a woman? I am a woman". And that's the end.

What. The. Fuck.

Not poly. Yet another totally dysfunctional unhappy couple who dislike each other, whose pride backs them into a corner, and where infidelity and a baby fixes everything. Bizarre dialogue, strange audio cuts, random addressing of the camera for no apparent reason, and even an odd cameo that has nothing at all to do with the plot (but is from another movie on the various other "poly movie" lists online). Maybe people who are into artistic indie and foreign films will get this movie. I did not.


 
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