Since 1959 and the release of his first film, Jean-Luc Godard has engaged audiences with a varied body of work. He has entertained, quoted, lectured, and bored, inevitably. Throughout his entire career, both the depiction of the female and her role in his films has been of the utmost importance. In the early years of his career, women in his films were represented as objects of mystery and beauty. His films of the Nouvelle Vague and the period immediately following it portray women in two distinct ways within this theme of woman as object. The first is as betrayers of the man they love. The second is the use of prostitution as a metaphor for exploitation of female sexuality. However, his prostitute characters offer varying degrees of strength and independence, and their similarities and differences will be a source of much interest throughout his career. In general, his films mature with their creator, arguably resulting in deeper explorations of issues that arose in earlier films.
[...] Women in his films do not grow or necessarily, but the artist creating them certainly does. In this way, his female characters are elements in Godard's further exploration of his, and their, world, and his investigation of relationships and sexuality. The first trend in Godard's depiction of women in his early work is his female characters represented as femme fatales; women betray or are sources of violence against the men they love. The term femme fatale does not necessarily apply to all of these films, as they do not always result in death. [...]
[...] In his political films this theme appears in the shape of factory workers on strike, youth fighting the police, and previously with prostitution as in “Vivre sa Vie.” Paul Godard is the source of the remainder of the violence of the male sexuality in “Sauve qui Peut (La In a scene indicative of the films translated title, “Slow Motion,” Paul fights with his on again, off again partner, Denise (Nathalie Baye) while they eat in the kitchen. The table and their chairs are knocked over and Denise is clearly hurt when she leaves the room. [...]
[...] As Laura Mulvey and Colin MacCabe write in a chapter on his images of female sexuality, Godard's of images of women continues from his early through his late films to raise problems for those who have followed the logic of feminist arguments” (84). To illustrate this they refer to a scene in “British Sounds” (1970) in which Godard films a naked woman in a silent, suburban house. Of this scene they write: is not that Godard's investigation lacks interest but it is finally a masculine investigation, ignoring the complex social determination of women's position in favor of an image of woman outside any social or economic context” (87). [...]
[...] What these three films point to is the dark side of female sexuality in Godard's films, the potential for betrayal and tragedy on the part of the woman. Godard is very interested in female sexuality specifically in relation to male desire. In these early films, some of Godard's female characters are prostitutes, the most extreme symbol for the debasement and objectification of the female body. Woman as a commodity is the central theme of the films involving prostitutes, and it is one that will reappear later in his work. [...]
[...] The essential difference between the portrayal of Nana of “Vivre sa and Isabelle of “Sauve Qui Peut (La is that Nana maintains the trend in early Godard of the wonderful mystery of the female sexuality. We watch her dance around a pool room, trying vainly to attract the attention of a man playing billiards and her pimp. The brutality of male sexuality is there, in the scene where she struggles in her refusal to kiss on the mouth and when she is murdered, but the film does not explore this aspect of prostitution to the extent that “Sauve Qui Peut (La does. [...]
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