from the soundtrack of Une Femme Mariée (A Married Woman) a film by Jean-Luc Godard made in 1964
The iconoclastic, legendary and a phenomenon of modern cinema, Jean-Luc Godard, had started as a film critic writing primarily in Cahiers du cinéma before he became a filmmaker.
In an interview in 1960s, he said, “As a critic, I thought of myself as a film-maker. Today I still think of myself as a critic, and in a sense I am, more than ever before. Instead of writing criticism, I make a film, but the critical dimension is subsumed. I think of myself as an essayist, producing essays in novel form, or novels in essay form: only instead of writing, I film them. Were the cinema to disappear, I would simply accept the inevitable and turn to television; were television to disappear, I would revert to pencil and paper. For there is a clear continuity between all forms of expression. It’s all one. The important thing is to approach it from the side which suits you best“.
Widely-read in literature, philosophy and painting, Godard experimented with language and the metaphysics of the spoken words in his films. He would characteristically make references to literature, works of painters and philosophers to comment on reality – a kind of intervention between the reality captured by camera and its realization on the screen to lend transparency to an otherwise opaque image projected on the screen.
“Movies are a world of fragments,” he said – these fragments, both aural and visual, would be synthesized into an essay in his films.
He also believed that an artist’s work and his life are inseparable. The artist must find inspiration for his work from his life. That’s why his films are of very personal nature. In his 1982 film Passion, a Polish filmmaker is commissioned by some French producers to make a film in France. But, the director struggles to come up with a script for his film. He fusses with selecting proper lighting on the set or picking the actors after coming up with some vague new idea every day – but, the script is never realized. He gives up and goes back to his country, back to life. Passion is unlike Truffaut’s film Day for Night where a film is finally made through a chaotic process.
What I transcribed below are some fragments of dialog from the film Une Femme Mariée (A Married Woman), a film he shot in 1964. You may consider this as a tribute to a filmmaker who I regard to be a genius. From time to time, such tributes to master filmmakers will appear in this blog.
In the film, fragments appear with title cards which I repeat here. But, I have included here only selected fragments – my favorite ones.
Title card: Excerpts from a movie shot in 1964 in Black and White
Charlotte, a married woman, is having an affair with Robert, an actor.
Scene : Charlotte and Robert in a bed in Robert’s new apartment in Paris
CHARLOTTE: I don’t know.
ROBERT: You don’t know if you love me?
CHARLOTTE: Why do you talk all the time? (Pause) It’s so nice here!
Robert caresses the bare back of Charlotte
ROBERT: What’s that scar?
CHARLOTTE: O, when I was little …I fell….. on the beach
ROBERT: When you come right down to it, even in love, you can’t go very far.
CHARLOTTE: What do you mean?
ROBERT: You kiss, you caress, but, you’re still on the outside. It’s like a house you can’t enter.
CHARLOTTE: You can lose yourself in love.
ROBERT: But at other times you get inside people without thinking. When it doesn’t matter.
CHARLOTTE: I love you.
ROBERT: You should do like the women in Italian movies. Have you seen them? They don’t shave under their arms.
CHARLOTTE: I prefer Hollywood movies. They’re prettier.
ROBERT: Yes, but they’re less exciting.
CHARLOTTE: You have nice eyebrows.
ROBERT: You think so?
CHARLOTTE: It’s the most important thing in Japan
ROBERT: Why don’t you like me to look at you? (After a Pause) I’d like to give you a child .
CHARLOTTE: I already have one.
ROBERT: But you told me it was from your husband’s first marriage.
CHARLOTTE: Yes, I did.
ROBERT: Was he married a long time?
CHARLOTTE: No, his first wife left him after two months. She went away with the manager of a casino in Djibout. (Sings the Pete Seeger song) “Where have all the flowers gone? Long time passing …. Long time…ago”.
ROBERT: When are we going to live together?
CHARLOTTE: I told you not before my divorce. These things take time.
ROBERT: You’re sure you’ve told him?
ROBERT: I like your teeth.
Robert wants Charlotte to take off all of her clothes.
ROBERT: Take it off.
Charlotte takes off her clothes.
CHARLOTTE: I’m cold.
ROBERT: Let me look at you. (After a Pause) I love you.
CHARLOTTE: Me too.
ROBERT: I love you.
CHARLOTTE: Me too.
CHARLOTTE: Do you love me?
CHARLOTTE: Yes…Yes…. Yes….
Charlotte sits on the edge of the bed and observes a framed picture on the wall.
CHARLOTTE: Who is that one? Moliere?
ROBERT: Yes. In 1694 Bousset published his “Reflections on Comedy.” I think it is clearly demonstrated that the enactment of agreeable passions leads naturally to sin. When this performance is only to encourage premeditated desires guided by lust. Moliere answers that the theater prevents sin by purifying love. …….
CHARLOTTE: I better get dressed.
ROBERT: There’s lot of time.
CHARLOTTE: No. I don’t want to any more.
ROBERT: You going home?
CHARLOTTE: No, I have to pickup the kid from school.
ROBERT: How do you like the apartment?
CHARLOTTE: I hadn’t really looked. Was it expensive?
ROBERT: 3,500 furnished.
CHARLOTTE: That’s pretty expensive.
ROBERT: You can go out on the roof from here.
CHARLOTTE: How do you get there?
ROBERT: The stairs at the end of the hall.
Charlotte runs to the roof, stark naked.
ROBERT: Charlotte, what are you doing? Are you crazy running around like that? Come back in here.
CHARLOTTE: I thought you liked me nude.
ROBERT: Don’t put words in my mouth.
CHARLOTTE: Listen, I have a husband at home. I don’t come here to be ordered around.
ROBERT: Get dressed and stop talking about him all the time.
CHARLOTTE: But, it wasn’t me… it was you…
ROBERT: All right… Sorry…
Charlotte is putting on her clothes.
ROBERT: You never clean my razor when you use it.
CHARLOTTE: Stop saying, I’m sloppy.
ROBERT: I didn’t say that.
CHARLOTTE: Help me. I can’t get it. It’s not my fault I have to go. Tuesday, it was you.
ROBERT: But I had a rehearsal.
CHARLOTTE: But you don’t believe me when I say I have to pick up the kid.
ROBERT: Sure, I do.
Charlotte needs help from Robert with her brassiere.
CHARLOTTE: Ouch… not so rough…
ROBERT: Be still. Here you go.
They leave the apartment, but not together. Robert goes out first to get his car
Scene : Charlotte Leaves Robert’s apartment
Charlotte, who thinks that her ever-suspicious husband, PIERRE, has hired a detective to follow her, sneaks out stealthily after making sure that no one is following or watching her. During this sequence, we hear Charlotte’s voice-over on the soundtrack.
CHARLOTTE: (VO) Kisses… Caresses… No one speaks… In the summer…May be he has forgotten … Jealousy…when does he get back…What a pretty dress…I’ll tell you…That’s dangerous… You’re not listening…Freedom… Pleasure…Look away… Why that Question…I’m afraid of being late… Life in general…
Robert pulls his convertible over to the curb. Charlotte jumps in and bends down to hide herself.
ROBERT: You put on too much powder.
CHARLOTTE: I do as I like.
ROBERT: Women live for men, but, won’t do anything for them.
CHARLOTTE: Come on, let’s go.
Scene : Charlotte alone
CHARLOTTE: (VO) In the middle of the hallway…Hope…A girl’s face…Who am I? I’ve never really known for sure….The verb “To follow”….Other reasons…. I used to be….Not here, a year ago….Just once, right?…..It’s his fault….It’s dream and reality….Always dream and reality…. Bittesrsweet….I’ll come back tomorrow… Friday or Saturday…He was frightened of me…I know he loves me…It’s difficult….I’m on vacation…As the days pass…Yesterday, today, tomorrow…We bump into each other by accident…Happiness – I don’t know…
Scene : Pierre and Charlotte in their apartment in the afternoon
Pierre, Charlotte’s husband and a pilot, has returned home from an assignment. They live in the apartment with Pierre’s little boy from a previous marriage.
PIERRE: Where do you begin? Where does my image of you begin? How do I tell the difference between reality and my desires?
CHARLOTTE: You just need to know what’s behind my eyes.
PIERRE: What is behind them?
CHARLOTTE: Each time you come home you ask such complicated questions.
PIERRE: I love you. Maybe that’s why it’s complicated.
CHARLOTTE: I love you too, Pierre. Maybe it’s not the way you want, but, it’s sincere.
Scene : Pierre and Charlotte’s apartment in the evening
Pierre has invited his filmmaker friend (much older than him) to dinner at their apartment. The three are relaxing after dinner.
Godard edited and assembled their conversation into a series of monologues using captions before each one.
Title card: Memory
PIERRE: It’s amazing to think that the first thing they put in a machine is memory. Teaching it to remember the past.
CHARLOTTE: Yes, but the past isn’t amusing. The present is more important.
PIERRE: No, for me, I admit memory is very important. It’s even a bit unbelievable. When I was in Germany and I went to some of the trials at Auschwitz… the accused, who had killed who knows how many thousands….they all swore they couldn’t remember anything… I don’t know, maybe they were faking it, maybe it was their only defense. But some looked like they have gone completely blank. Speaking of memory, when I was in Greece with Roberto Rossellini that time, he told me a strange story. Rossellini thought it was the funniest thing ever. One day, on the Champs Elysees, he saw a parade deportees. You know… the men wore their old camp uniforms…striped pajamas, caps. But, this was ten years after the war. Obviously, they have been much thinner in the days at Dachau or Mauthausen. In the meantime, they had been eating…living a normal life and they had put on weight. They had gotten fatter and the uniforms didn’t fit. And this is why Rossellini thought it was so funny. Because those men had a memory that was false memory. They didn’t remember what they had been like. (Pause) My memory… with me… it’s impossible to forget. I remember everything. Everything, whether my first flight or my first vacation in Brittany. Just like the first day we met. I remember it all, even the dress you wore. Of course, there are some things I’d rather forget.
Title card: The Present
CHARLOTTE: Memory is not for me. I prefer the present. The present is more exciting. I like music. Things that die… flowers…Love… Love, you know you got to live it… of course you live in the present….because if it’s impossible to love in the present… it couldn’t live, it would be dead. What’s important for me is to know what’s happening. I mean, to be aware of what’s happening. I try to find exactly what it all means. How all the others react. It’s difficult in the present. That’s why I just love the present. Because the present gives me no time to think….. I can’t understand it. It’s way beyond me. But, certainly, what I’m interested in is this thing that escapes me, that I’m not able to control in the present. That’s why I like the present. I want to control it because I am a human being, not an animal… Often, I regret that, because I love animals, they’re so natural, so beautiful. But we have to understand. You ask if I’m happy. No, I’m not happy at all. Well, I’m not happy because I’m not alive in the present. I’m up to date…nothing surprises me that happens…Yes, yes, there are many things that I’ve done that are wrong. I am ashamed. I’m able to… I am able to… I was ashamed… after. I was ashamed because I wasn’t smart enough to realize that they were bad. But, during the present – no, that’s why I love the present. Because, during the present, I’m able to do it…. It escapes me. I’m not sure what will happen. The present keeps me from madness.
Title card: Intelligence
FILMMAKER FRIEND: It’s curious that certain words to which we attach no importance when we first heard them, after a while, become significant. I’m thinking of a phrase someone said to me twenty five years ago, in 1940. During that mess we made at Vichy. He was a man of great courage and wit…one of the first to join the resistance. He wanted to visit Vichy before committing himself against it. He said, “I’m not a man of action before I’m a man of comprehension.” This friend of mine – he had a beautiful name – Emmanuel …. He was not at all like me. But, this statement of his, has become for me, a personal motto which is, in my opinion, the definition of intelligence. Intelligence is to comprehend before acting. It’s the idea of seeking. Seeking the limits, seeking one’s opposite. To reach an understanding of others, a bridge between oneself and others. We then find, bit by bit, a part of the path. I’m aware that not everyone cares for his intellectual approach. Most men want brilliant colors or things that are black or white without nuances or shades. But, to me, the fanatics, the dogmatics are the boring ones. To begin with, you know what they are going to say in advance. But those who embrace paradox are more amusing and engaging. Paradox offers an alternative to the self-evident. Beside, today, there’s the word “Compromise”. Compromise is splendid – may be the most courageous of intellectual acts. But today its lack of conviction. As far as I am concerned, I shall go on, thinking that we must continue to look for the proper synthesis….. and I will go on saying that the world cannot be so simple. And, the world can’t be completely absurd. Intelligence is precisely the attempt to inject reason into this absurdity. You (addressing Charlotte) remind me, even though you have brown hair, of a lovely redhead in a poem by Appolinaire…”Now is the time for sunshine, the day of passionate reason – the passionate reason that the poet awaits – when it appears has the charming aspect of an adorable Redhead.” And that is what you see in a woman’s face who has intellectual consciousness… it gives her a kind of other beauty… a kind of regal beauty of a woman turning into something supreme. That is why, I believe, all great ideas are feminine. That’s why we name statues “La Virtue,”, “La Republique,”, “La France”. I know it’s improper to lecture on philosophy at such a charming dinner. But I ask you to simply believe that it’s sincere. I make this declaration of intellectual prudence not because I’m aging. On the contrary, when I was 20, I was more open to other ideas. It’s when one is 60 that you’d like to give your brain a vacation. And that humanism is a bore and that one wants to be foolish. But, in any case, we must love the young wise man and the old fool.
Scene: Pierre & Charlotte in bed after the departure of the guest
CHARLOTTE: If I asked you what your faults are… what’d you say?
PIERRE: Why not my good points?
CHARLOTTE: No, it’s your faults that interest me.
PIERRE: Pride, impatience. My love for you.
CHARLOTTE: Mine are laziness, lying…no, not laziness, actually. I just have no will power.
PIERRE: Take off your nightgown.
CHARLOTTE: No, I’ll be cold.
PIERRE: You promised to be nice….. Why don’t you like me to look at you any more?
CHARLOTTE: Because it embarrasses me.
PIERRE: Why? There is no reason it should.
CHARLOTTE: It just does. That’s all.
PIERRE: All right.
PIERRE: You are sad all of a sudden.
PIERRE: Because of me?
CHARLOTTE: No. All the others.
PIERRE: What do you mean?
CHARLOTTE: All those people I don’t know. All the people in the street. I’d like to know them all. I wish I knew how to. That one. That one. That one. That one who could die tomorrow. He’s waiting for a phone call before killing himself. But nobody calls him. So he does it. We’re all guilty people.
Title card: Theatre and Love
Scene : Charlotte and Robert in a bed in an airport hotel room in Paris in various moments of intimacy
Robert is at the airport waiting for his flight. He is on his way to a theatre performance outside of Paris. Robert and Charlotte have another rendezvous planned before he leaves. Charlotte, guided by Robert, sneaks into Robert’s hotel room in her usual surreptitious way making sure no one can suspect that they are meeting each other.
Charlotte has found out that she is pregnant. She doesn’t know whose child she is carrying – Robert’s or Pierre’s? She has at last realized that she has to choose between the two men.
CHARLOTTE: First of all, you Robert, I’ve often asked myself who you really are.
ROBERT: That’s a strange question. I’m not sure who I really am. I’m a guy pretty much like the others. I’ve got faults, I suppose, like the others.
CHARLOTTE: You say, you’re an actor…
ROBERT: Yes, why?
CHARLOTTE: What is an Actor?
ROBERT: An Actor goes up on stage and acts in plays….an Actor… interprets… defines a character…goes outside oneself and illustrates feelings, thoughts…That’s what it is… That’s all… More or less…
CHARLOTTE: And right now, are you upholding your position?
ROBERT: At this moment, yes, I’m trying to uphold my position. I mean, my own position as an Actor. Besides that, my own position as a Man….It’s not simple, not a bit simple.
CHARLOTTE: How can you tell the difference between life and the theatre?
ROBERT: In life, I’m not acting. At least, I don’t feel as though I’m acting. You know that certain types of actors are always acting. Trying to feed their emotions. I may be wrong, but I’m not like them at all.
CHARLOTTE: And, in the theatre, do you think you exist? Or, are you just a mechanism?
ROBERT: I think…. It’s difficult to answer that. A bit of both, I think. Of course, I’m a mechanism. That’s undeniable. But, at the same time…
CHARLOTTE: Look, if it’s both then there’s no difference between life and the theatre.
ROBERT: No, there is a difference. You ask a question, I answer what comes into my mind.
CHARLOTTE: But, are you acting right now?
ROBERT: But, it’s not the same thing as acting…the theatre is another thing. There is a text which helps you. It’s not me at all. What I am doing…you ask me question and I am answering in the simplest…but this is my script, my text. It’s not the same as the Theatre, that’s the difference. You might say I’m acting right now because—
CHARLOTTE: Are you acting when you make love to me?
ROBERT: Oh no, not at all. No, absolutely not – no – Absolutely not—not at all. It’s quite different.
CHARLOTTE: So, you don’t enjoy it. It’s not fun for you.
ROBERT: Why not?
CHARLOTTE: Since you love the theatre.
ROBERT: One can be fond of theatre and fond of making love. They’re not mutually exclusive. But they are separate things.
CHARLOTTE: If you had to choose, which would you pick?
ROBERT: Making love.
CHARLOTTE: I’m always afraid that you are acting.
ROBERT: No, you needn’t be. When I say I love you, I’m being honest and sincere. I’m sure I love you.
CHARLOTTE: But how can I really tell that you are sincere? How do I know you’re not acting?
ROBERT: I thought you had enough proof already of my love for you. I thought there were things you just knew….tangible things about me…between us.
CHARLOTTE: What does Love mean to you?
ROBERT: It means just what I feel for you.
CHARLOTTE: No, think about it carefully before you answer.
ROBERT: Love is… I assure you that… uh…
CHARLOTTE: What does Love really mean to you?
ROBERT: It really is what I feel, when I am with you… my feeling for you… how I care for you… everything I feel inside for you. It’s what I call Love.
CHARLOTTE: No, no, never mind me. Speak about yourself.
ROBERT: But, how can I? To me, Love is the link between two people. Oneself in relation to another… I don’t know. Perhaps it’s… I don’t know… it’s…
CHARLOTTE: If I asked you what were your good points, what would you say?
ROBERT: My good points? Why not my faults?
CHARLOTTE: No, it’s your good points that interest me.
ROBERT: Intelligence. Mistrust.
CHARLOTTE: Mistrust is a good thing?\
ROBERT: It is.
CHARLOTTE: What else?
CHARLOTTE: Not your love for me?
ROBERT: That too. And, what are yours?
CHARLOTTE: Me… that I’ve no afterthoughts perhaps.
We hear flight boarding call announced. Robert says it’s time for his flight – he has to go.
And, Charlotte ends the affair by saying, it’s all over.