Two or Three Things I Know About Her  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Two or Three Things I Know About Her (2 ou 3 choses que je sais d'elle) (1967) is a French film directed by Jean-Luc Godard, one of three features he completed that year. Like the other two (Week End and La Chinoise), it is considered both socially and stylistically radical. Many American critics, including Village Voice critics Amy Taubin and J. Hoberman, consider it one of the greatest achievements in filmmaking.

Plot summary and themes

The film does not tell a story so much as a present a disturbing character study of married women with children whose husbands agree (or encourage) them to sell their bodies in order to maintain a high standard of living. The film focuses primarily on the sophisticated but empty life of Juliette Janson (Marina Vlady), a seemingly bourgeois married mother who begins her day dropping off her screaming child to a man who has a flourishing business doing childcare for call girls. Though Juliette lives in one of many supposedly luxurious high rises being erected in the banlieues (suburbs) of Paris, the apartments are small and box-like, constricting and alienating. While meant to provide housing to families working in the growing capital during the prosperous post-war years, Godard sees them as the infrastructure for promoting a value system based on consumerism, a term he equates with prostitution itself. A consumerist society, he explained during a debate on the Oct. 25, 1966 edition of Zoom, demands a work force living in regimented time and space, forced to work jobs they don't like, "a prostitution of the mind."

The film often cuts to various still shots of oppressively bright products and ongoing construction, while Godard, doing a voice over in the role of a self-questioning narrator, discusses his fears to the audience about the contemporary world, including the Vietnam War. The director, who made two other films in the same year, dubs his voice in an almost frightened whisper, as if he fears the wrong people will hear him and become suspicious of his politics.

Around the time he was making the film, Godard appeared on the television program Zoom to debate with government official Jean St. Geours, who predicted that advertising would increase as the basic impulse of the French society at the time was to increase its standard of living. Godard explained that he sees advertisers as the pimps who enslave the women to the point where they give their bodies without compunction because they've been convinced what they can buy has more potential to bring happiness than enjoying sex in a loving way. All of the film's sexual interplay is banal instead of erotic, and often disturbing. One client, an American wearing a shirt with his country's flag and the words "America uber alles" demands the women he has hired to wear shopping bags over their heads.

This is one of the first of many times Godard demonstrates his growing anti-American streak, examples of which appear in most of the films he did after he helped pioneer La Nouvelle Vague (The French New Wave) which had reached its zenith by 1967. This comes in contrast to his attitude as a 29 year old cinephile showing obvious reverence for American directors and actors in films like Breathless (1959), in which the main character is shown staring lovingly at a picture of Humphrey Bogart and imitating his expressions.

Though there was a script, there are many cases where the cast breaks the fourth wall, looking into the camera and giving seemingly random monologues about what they think about life and themselves. Vlady and other actors wore earpieces through which the director would ask surprise questions, often putting the Vlady off guard, as she was required to give spontaneous answers that were appropriate to her character.

Like many of the director's works, the film does not follow the arc applicable to most (especially American films: He ignores the idea of giving a clear introduction to characters, creating a conflict going into rising tension, and then providing a resolution. It is simply 24 hours in the life of a new type of prostitute that Godard believed was becoming more and more prevalent as post-war France adopted an American economic model. While prostitution may be the oldest of professions, these women were supposedly "normal" women with opportunities and yet the drive for money leads them to do give a personal part of themselves with a surprising indifference

American Re-Release

In 2007, a new 35mm print of the film was released in US theaters.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Two or Three Things I Know About Her" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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