Une Femme Coquette may not sound like anything special—a 9-minute no-budget short film, shot 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 our article “Neither lost nor found: On the trail of an elusive icon’s rarest film” back in 2014, has for decades 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. No other surviving narrative film by a major, big-name director has been as difficult to see—until now.
Earlier this week, a copy of Une Femme Coquette surfaced on the digital back channels frequented by obscure movie enthusiasts. An enterprising user named David Heslin has uploaded this rarity of rarities to YouTube, complete with English subtitles. 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.”
via AV Club
This stylish, low-budget and heartfelt campaigning film was made by the London Film-makers Co-operative, “in solidarity with the miners”. Shot on 35mm and originally screened before the main feature in independent cinemas around the UK during 1984-85, it was presented as an ‘advert’. Buckets were passed around and the money raised was given to the fund for striking miners. The year-long Miners’ Strike resulted in widespread hardship; many groups and individuals took part in fundraising ventures to support the strikers.
Director Richard Philpott had a background making unusual, experimental films about political causes. He usually shot on 16mm but in this case worked on 35mm so that the film could be screened alongside traditional narrative feature films. Philpott was a member of the London Filmmakers’ Co-operative, an organisation founded on left wing, non-hierarchical principles. The film parallels the darkness of the mining pit with the darkness of the cinema space while also highlighting the illuminatory force of the miners and the power of working together. It was made with an immediate, specific purpose in mind but still conveys its urgent, poetic qualities, even when viewed today.