No Big Deal: Jean-Luc Godard’s First Narrative Work, Thought Lost, is Found

By  · Published on February 22nd, 2017

Short of the Day

From 1955, ‘Une Femme Coquette.’

In the annals of lost films, perhaps one of the most tragic is the disappearance of 1955’s Une Femme Coquette (A Flirtatious Woman), the first narrative work (and second cinematic effort) of auteur Jean-Luc Godard. Godard was 25 at the time and it would be another half-decade before his proper debut, Breathless, kickstarted the French New Wave and propelled Godard into the realm of great international directors. According to The AV Club, the film was never distributed and only had half-a-dozen public screenings before it simply vanished into obscurity, presumed by many in the know to be lost forever. The Clubbers went seeking a print themselves and were able to find one, 16mm, but it was in a film archive in Europe where it was being stored for a private owner and only available for loan with Godard’s express opinion. I think this means that while the rest of the world was looking under every movie theater seat on the planet for this thing, the director not only knew of its continued existence, he knew where it was.

Well, now the secret’s out of the bag and the film itself, all nine minutes of it, is available worldwide thanks to YouTuber David Heslin. From his post:

The plot was a reworking of a Guy De Maupassant short story called “The Signal,” about a woman who allows herself to be mistaken for a prostitute. The movie was filmed very cheaply on the streets of Geneva, with JLG serving as the sole crew member. According to Colin MacCabe’s biography, Godard: A Portrait Of The Artist At Seventy – which devotes the final, tantalizingly brief paragraph of its first chapter to the film – it was shot on equipment borrowed from Actua-Films, the company that distributed JLG’s first short, Opération Béton. Snatches of Bach were used for the soundtrack.

This is pretty much all there is to know other than the name of the lead actress, Maria Lysandre (and unless all the attention it’s receiving causes Godard to release a statement), but the history of its making isn’t the point, the history it made is. There are buds of Godard’s style – aesthetic and narrative – all throughout Une Femme Coquette, and the director himself has a cameo a couple minutes in. If the scenario seems familiar, that’s because this isn’t the only time Godard told it. In 1966’s Masculin Feminin he uses it again (with a different actress) as the film-within-a-film.

But that’s enough talking. You’ve been kept from Une Femme Coquette more than a half-century too long already, don’t wait another second to press play.

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