The New Wave has been assessed in every intellectual capacity, and using every aesthetic criterion imaginable, but what makes the New Wave the most beguiling of cinematic phenomenon is that, in essence, it is a declaration of the love of cinema, through cinema itself.
AWOMAN IS A WOMAN ("Une Femme est une Femme"), Godard's third film, is as much a milestone as his own "Breathless" two years earlier. The basic premise is effectively that of a kitchen sink drama; an exotic dancer's (Anna Karina) whim to have a baby is met with consternation by her boyfriend (Jean-Claude Brialy), who is further dismayed when she asks a mutual friend (Jean-Paul Belmondo) to act as a surrogate father.
But the neo-realist background gives way to a film shot in bold, giddy colours and synchronised to Legrand's harebrained soundtrack - A WOMAN IS A WOMAN is best described as a musical with no singing. Actors frequently affect choreographed like stances and positions, their conversations punctuated with overtly dramatic interventions from Legrand's score. Our heroine expresses her desire to appear in an American musical, "with Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse", before adopting the relevant deportment for the approval of the audience, who are constantly consulted, bowed to, winked at and cavorted with by actors revelling in front of Godard's lens.
It is Godard's preference for the actor, in favour of the character, that makes A WOMAN IS A WOMAN an unparalleled experience in spontaneity. Filmed without a script, the actors wear their own clothes and concoct their own dialogue. Belmondo in particular frolics in the new-found fame gifted to him by Godard, expressing his wish to be present when "they're showing Breathless on television", and grinning at the audience as he namedrops new acquaintance Burt Lancaster. Later, he meets Jeanne Moreau in a bar, and asks her "how JULES ET JIM is coming along".
And it is with Truffaut's masterpiece that A WOMAN IS A WOMAN shares its essential raison d'être - the embodiment of femininity through a dazzling and formidable singularity, in this instance Anna Karina, whose whims, mood-swings and impetuosity are her right and privilege as a woman, as all women. "Women have a right to dodge issues, men don't", she tells Brialy, shortly after decreeing the stupidity of modern women, "these women who imitate men". A smile turns to a frown or a tear in the blink of an eye, and back again just as quickly, in an infectiously joyful and touching performance that is among cinema's most engaging. Karina, the new wave bride, worked with husband Godard on seven of his greatest films, but it is this wonderful and dizzying cinematic cocktail that is Godard's most translucent love poem to an extraordinary actress touched by an impulsive genius and unique beauty.
Along with JULES ET JIM, Jacques Demy's LOLA and Godard's own BAND A PART, A WOMAN IS A WOMAN is the most energizing and uplifting of all New Wave films. Both gleeful and baffling, it is essentially summed up by Brialy himself, who towards the film's delightful conclusion declares: "I don't know if this is a comedy or a tragedy, but it's a masterpiece"