‘ One Sings...’ still timely af­ter 40 years

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Fem­i­nism has gone through mul­ti­ple “waves” since the 1970s, but our au­di­ence at a re­cent Stam­ford screen­ing of the women’s lib­er­a­tion clas­sic “One Sings, the Other Doesn’t” agreed that the 1977 film is still rel­e­vant.

The event at the non- profit Avon The­atre Film Cen­ter was part of the Hearst Movie & A Mar­tini group in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Al­liance Fran­caise of Green­wich. The theater screened the re­cent restora­tion of the movie that was su­per­vised by di­rec­tor Agnes Varda and de­buted in Paris in July.

Varda was Os­car- nom­i­nated for her doc­u­men­tary, “Faces Places,” ear­lier this year and shows no signs of slow­ing down at 90.

The film­maker’s fas­ci­na­tion with the real life go­ing on around her has re­sulted in a youth­ful spirit through­out a ca­reer that goes all the way back to the de­but film “La Pointe Courte” in 1954. Al­though she la­bored for many years in the shadow of her ac­claimed film­maker hus­band, Jacques Demy, she has come into her own since his death in 1990, with crit­ics and au­di­ences em­brac­ing both her new and old work.

Un­like most tra­di­tional directors, Varda has moved back and forth be­tween fic­tion and non­fic­tion films. Her cu­rios­ity about pol­i­tics and so­cial cus­toms has taken her around the globe. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Varda ex­plored Amer­i­can pol­i­tics in films about the Black Pan­ther Party and the coun­ter­cul­ture move­ment that ben­e­fit­ted from her ob­jec­tiv­ity.

“One Sings, the Other Doesn’t” was Varda’s at­tempt to come to terms with the fem­i­nist up­heavals of the 1970s as a woman and a film­maker. Al­though she con­structed a fic­tional story about two un­likely fe­male friends who ex­pe­ri­ence lib­er­a­tion as they move through their 20s and 30s, the movie was built on Varda’s own re­search and she gives many scenes a feel­ing of doc­u­men­tary re­al­ism.

The younger and more op­ti­mistic Pauline ( Va­lerie Mairesse) drifts into a bo­hemian life as a trav­el­ing mu­si­cian, while Suzanne ( Therese Lio­tard) starts off in a more set­tled ex­is­tence as a sin­gle mother. It is to Varda’s credit that she doesn’t pit one lifestyle against an­other as the two women come to see the value in their in­de­pen­dence from male ex­pec­ta­tions.

One au­di­ence mem­ber said af­ter the screen­ing that she thought the film still had lessons to teach young women who now live in an age when ad­vances in tech­nol­ogy seem to have given men the up­per hand in both the per­sonal and pro­fes­sional spheres. “The chal­lenges the char­ac­ters face in the ( early 1960s) scenes are still with us,” she said of the cur­rent # Me­Too cri­sis in which men have been shown to be tak­ing ad­van­tage of the women they have power over.

“One Sings the Other Doesn’t” also takes dead aim at the idea of women hav­ing the right to con­trol their own bod­ies. The free­dom of the two pro­tag­o­nists is ex­plic­itly linked to their de­ci­sions to have abor­tions when they aren’t ready for a child. Forty years later, it is nearly im­pos­si­ble to name a Hol­ly­wood film or TV show in which a char­ac­ter de­cides not to re­main preg­nant.

Varda’s movie pre­ceded the Hol­ly­wood films that would touch on its fem­i­nist is­sues in a soft­ened man­ner.

Paul Mazursky’s “An Un­mar­ried Woman” ( 1978) was one of the few do­mes­tic movies that had its hero­ine choos­ing to stay sin­gle rather than run off with a seem­ingly ideal man ( and there were more than a few women who chided the Jill Clay­burgh char­ac­ter for turn­ing down Alan Bates’s of­fer of a summer in Ver­mont).

“We still have a lot of work to do,” a woman com­mented as she headed out of the screen­ing.

The next gather­ing of the movie club will be a show­ing of an­other fe­male coming of age story, “Pep­per­mint Soda,” on Tues­day, Nov. 20 at 7: 30 p. m. at the Avon The­atre in Stam­ford.

An­thony Gh­nas­sia / Getty Images

Valérie Mairesse, Thérèse Lio­tard, Agnes Varda and Char­lie Van Damme at the pre­miere of the newly re­stored 1977 film “One Sings, The Other Doesn't” in Paris last July. Be­low, a still from the film.

Con­trib­uted photo

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