One Sings, the Other Doesn't (France, 1977):
(L'Une Chante, l'Autre Pas)

The singing one is Pauline (Valérie Mairesse), who in a 1962 prologue takes time out from her yeah-yeah-yeah sessions to help out her friend Suzanne (Thérèse Liotard) with an abortion. When Suzanne's struggling photographer husband hangs himself, the two drift apart, only to bump into each other at a rally in the turbulent 1970s -- Suzanne running a family planning center, hippified Pauline (rechristened Pomme) Joan Baezing it up with an artsy troupe. Agnès Varda's first fictional work since Les Créatures was trumped up as the restless director's official entry in the women's lib sweepstakes, though the movie's sympathetic view of men pleased few militants of the cause. Then again, expecting a rigid feminist manifesto from Varda because she's a woman is like expecting a Black Panthers salvo from Charles Burnett because he's black -- both are simply too aware of the complications of streamlining feelings into any inflexible movement psychology. While emphasizing the importance of all her characters' appetite for ideas and experiences, Varda pierces idealized softness by penciling in the difficulties of applying theories to reality, particularly in Pomme's relationship to Iranian liberal Ali Raffi. (The pull of tradition, of settling down with a family, is as strong as that of experimentation -- being able to choose is what's important). Amorphous where Varda's other studies of human fringes are disciplined, the picture has not aged well in its utopian tambourine-rattling ("Not a mascot or a despot or an old pot/I am woman, I'm me" -- allowing for lousy translation, that's still pretty terrible). Yet, like Alice's Restaurant, it lingers as a view of a possible alternative order, balancing sympathy and criticism. Narrated by Varda.

--- Fernando F. Croce

Back to Reviews
Back Home