It was 62 years ago, 24 years old French filmmaker and French New Wave pioneer, Jean-Luc Godard, made a short film, called Une Femme Coquette (Pretty Woman). The film was uncovered and shared on YouTube this week!
For many French New Wave or independent cinema enthusiasts this is pure gold! Discovering the film now, makes it all the more exciting to spot obvious resemblance to Godard’s most celebrated films such the 1960, Breathless (A Bout De Souffle). In just 9 minutes, non-linear narrative, street shots and bold dialogues are all back in a rush of nostalgia.
The film, credited to Hans Lucas, Godard’s film critic alias, is an adaptation of 19th century French writer Guy de Maupassant‘s short story, The Signal, and was shot in Geneva. It starts with a young married women writing a letter explaining her latest adultery. We are then taken back to the day in question, during which the women observed another women at a window and discovers she is a prostitute. She then challenges herself to do the same.
The theme of prostitution is a favorite of Godard, as seen in My Life To Live (Vivre Sa Vie) or even Two Or Three Things I Know About Her (Deux ou Trois Choses que je sais d’elle). It usually represents exploitation and consumerism.
However Godard never accuses the women of unethical behavior but rather the depraved and superficial society in which she was forced into prostitution.
This film should have been used as the basis for his 1966 longer feature, Masculin Féminin. Godard changed his mind and decided to only use Maupassant‘s The Signal as the premise for the “film within the film” the main characters go see at the cinema. Masculin Féminin is about French youth and society in the 1960s and stares Jean Pierre Leaud and real Yé-yé girl, Chantal Goya.
Emblematic figure of French cinema, Jean-Luc Godard has directed 43 feature films, as well as countless shorts and art projects. His comeback in 2014, Goodbye To Language, won the Jury Prize at Cannes.
“The world sentences her to a freedom that tests their virtue. Debauching oneself demands a courage that our time excused too much in the name of prudishness and inattention. Of love, but never of wisdom” (Une Femme Coquette).