Monday, 6 January 2020

One Sings, the Other Doesn't [1977]

In 1971, 343 feerless French women disclosed in the “Manifesto of the 343”, ignoring the possibility of criminal persecution and conservative backlash, that they’d had abortion; its signatories included, among others, Agnès Varda. The stirring statement that “the personal is political” is therefore emphatically applicable in her poignant and powerful film One Sings, the Other Doesn’t. An infectious tale of enduring friendship between two women whose lives parallel the Women’s Liberation Movement in 1970s France, imbued it with attributes that went beyond cinema; that it was also a beautifully rendered movie, at once playful and melancholic, irreverent and serious, polemical and poetic, and comprising of diverse formal choices like voiceovers (by Varda herself), epistolary narration (through heartwarming use of postcards), blending of “live” music and non-fiction agitprop elements into the within the narrative time-space, etc, made this all the more memorable. The kinship of the two marvelously enacted women begins when 17-year old high-school student Pauline (Valérie Mairesse) helps fund the abortion for 22-year old Suzanne (Thérèse Liotard), who’s struggling to make ends meet with the two kids she already has with a married photographer. And their bond gets sealed for life upon getting reconnected a few years later at the historical Bobigny trial. Their nature and life arcs couldn’t be more disparate – Pauline, the more impulsive and outspoken of the two, becomes part of a travelling feminist folk group singing quirky political songs and gets briefly married to an Iranian man, while single mom Susanne, who gradually embraces her radical spirit, eventually starts a family planning clinic. The final sequence, shot using a gently panning single take, ended this defiant yet intimate film on a beautifully elegiac note.

Director: Agnes Varda
Genre: Drama/Buddy Film/Feminist Drama
Language: French
Country: France

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