A lost early film by Jean Luc Godard From 1955 - Une Femme Coquette is found by film enthusiasts


A lost early film by Jean Luc Godard From 1955 - Une Femme Coquette is found by film enthusiasts

Une Femme Coquette may not sound like anything special — a 9 minute ‘no budget’ short film. Created on a borrowed 16mm camera by a 24-year-old amateur with no formal film school training. But the short, which was the subject of much speculation as the elusive icon’s rarest film. For decades it has been a sought-after item for art-house buffs and rare movie fiends.

Filmed in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1955, it was the first attempt at a narrative film by the iconic French New Wave director Jean-Luc Godard, a pivotal figure in the evolution of movie style, who would make his feature debut just five years later, with the hugely influential and perennially cool ‘Breathless’. Never distributed, Une Femme Coquette has had less than half a dozen public screenings since the 1960s; we were able to track down the only known 16mm print to a national film archive in Europe, where it was being stored unlisted for a private owner, to be loaned out only with the personal permission of Jean-Luc Godard himself. This makes it the holy grail of the game-changing New Wave era—a film so rare that it has often been listed as lost by biographies and film history books. And it might as well have been.

A lost early film by Jean Luc Godard From 1955 - Une Femme Coquette is found by film enthusiasts

No other surviving narrative film by a major, big-name director has been as difficult to see until now. A copy of Une Femme Coquette surfaced on the digital back channels frequented by obscure movie enthusiasts have uploaded this rare of rarities to YouTube, complete with English subtitles.

Une Femme Coquette

Credited to “Hans Lucas,” a German pseudonym that the Franco-Swiss Godard would sometimes employ during his brief career as a film critic, Une Femme Coquette was the budding director’s modern update of a Guy De Maupassant short story called “The Signal.”

Godard, who makes a cameo around the 2-minute mark, wearing his famous prescription sunglasses would readapt the story as an Ingmar Bergman parody for the film-within-the-film portion of his 1966 feature Masculin Féminin. While nothing is known about Une Femme Coquette’s lead actress, Maria Lysandre, the man on the park bench is played by Roland Tolmatchoff (credited as “Roland Tolma”), a cinephile and car dealer with whom Godard maintained a friendship for years, and who loaned many of the convertibles memorably featured in the director’s 1960s films. 

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, tantalisingly 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, and pieces of Bach were used for the soundtrack.

'neither lost or found' article can be found at - www.avclub.com/article/neither-lost-nor-found-trail-elusive-icons-rarest--211087

'french new wav' article can be found at - www.avclub.com/article/gateways-to-geekery-the-french-new-wave-24185
YouTube - https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=Jean+Luc+Godard+1955+Une+Femme+Coquette

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