THE MARRIED WOMAN (Jean-Luc Godard, 1964)

Against a blank wall, a naked hand appears. The woman flexes her fingers, to feel palm with fingernails. “I think; therefore I am.” Here: “I feel me; therefore, I am.” The hand touches the wall so that the woman can feel her hand. Ironically, this transforms the wall from backdrop into something functional, tactile. The film has become dynamic.
     The woman to whom the arm and hand belongs had seemed alone; but now a man’s hand grips her arm. All we have seen are hands and arms. Charlotte, who is married to Pierre, is with her lover, Robert. It is Robert’s hand that is gripping Charlotte’s arm. We hear Robert profess his love for Charlotte and his desire that they marry. We see a reclining naked Charlotte when Robert yanks the sheet off her. “I’m cold,” Charlotte notes. Robert: “I want to see you.” Well, that settles that.
     Charlotte, naked, is facing the camera when Robert’s hands, attached to long, hirsute arms, mount her body and grip her shoulders. Marriage to Robert would institutionalize this containment and confinement. “I love you,” Charlotte tells him. When Robert tells her “I like your teeth,” is this heartfelt, or is he trying to match her having told him that his eyebrows are beautiful?
     The French censors having changed La to Une, writer-director Jean-Luc Godard’s Une femme mariée includes documentary-style interviews, infusions of statistics, and Godard’s own voiceover, giving this portrait of the “modern woman” an air of confidence and authority; but drawing on his own life, including his wife’s infidelity, Godard is less certain than he seems. The film’s secondary title describes its episodes as “fragments.” We are implicitly invited to help find a coherent film in a sequence of raw materials. Godard waits, holding his breath.

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