The Greatest films of all time: 61.A Man and a Woman (1966) (France)


“Like our voices that sing ba da ba da…our hearts a chance, like a hope..everything starts again, the life starts much joy..many’s a long history..a man and a woman have forged the frame of chance like more time we fill our hearts with joy and we make the choice in our romance and chance for you and me.” This is the lyrics of the popular song of the film, “A Man and a Woman” by the French filmmaker, Claude Lelouch that since its release has been as great and memorable as the film by the French composer, Francis Lai that adds to the melodramatic flavor of the story.

“You and I, we live in the city, Our hearts for so long, so long, know the rhythm of the streets, amid all these glances, that cross and slip away ours, by chance, stop being unknown. Today it’s you, Today it’s me Today love has taken us in hand. And too bad if it’s going too fast because love is inviting us to live with abandon whatever awaits.” is another song of the film, “Aujourd’hui c’est toi” (Today It’s You). The film has a few other romantic songs that adds to its heartwarming feelings, such as “Plus fort que nous” (Stronger Than Us); “A l’ombre de nous” (In Our Shadow); and “A 200 a l’heure” (200 Km Miles An Hour) that all are the part of the acoustic beauty of the film adding to its great visual and sensational magic.

As a Jew hiding in movie theatres by his mother to escape the prosecution by Gestapo, Claude Lelouch became interested in cinema, so when his father bought him a camera, he started filming around like “a man with a movie camera”. His first film in 1960, “Le Propre de l’homme” threw off the “Cahiers du cinema” who wrote “Claude Lelouch, remember this name well, because you will not hear it again”! His next film, “La femme spectacle” followed prostitutes, women shopping, fixing their noses, etc. was censored for its content. It was not until “A Man and a Woman” that Claude Lelouch wrote and directed that changed his fate in filmmaking.

A Classic Love Story:

A young widow, Anne (Anouk Aimee) and a young widower, Jean-Louis (Jean-Louis Trintignant) meet by chance at their children’s boarding school and start a relationship complicated by their losses. Other than their shared terrible losses, the couple have some other sharing experiences in that Anne’s husband had died as a stuntman in a movie set in car accident, while Jean-Louis had a near fatal car crash accident as a race car driver that prompted his wife to take her own life. Both still work in Paris, Anne as a film script writer and Jean-Louis still as a car race driver, and both commute to Deauville where her daughter and his son attend the boarding school.

In a fresh friendship that leads soon to romance and a relief for their losses, Anne gets into stress and worries again over Jean-Louis’s car racing that carries high risk of fatality, like when in Mont Carlo Rally where out of 273 cars, only 42 including lucky Jean-Louis were able to reach the finish line. Still holding to the memories of her lost husband and in flashback, Anne breaks up with Jean-Louis, though soon back to each other as both feel that they need each other for soothing and to start a new beginning. A simple love story that could be a very common one and happen to anyone was so much loved by the audience world-wide upon its initial release that sold over 4 million tickets in France and earned $14 millions in US.


The tenderness of the romance with great performance by the two actors, the delicate and heartwarming songs of the film, its filmography and cinematography, for example switching between black- and-white, and color, and also sepia-toned shots captured the box office, and the accolades of critics. The film won many awards globally such as Plame d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, two golden globe awards for best foreign language film and best actress drama, two academy awards for best foreign language film and best original screenplay, best foreign language film at Blue Ribbon Award and Cinema Writers Circle, and Directors Guild of America for best directing, among others.  

Claude Lelouch’s early experiments with camera and his love of filmmaking that was ignored at the beginning of his career, soon flourished with “A Man and a Woman” not just for its tender melodrama that was a brief and simple one, but for his camera work, cinematography, its script, scores and songs. The film color switches, filming on location, in the driving cars and finally the superb filming of car crashes and explosions, novel for the time have all made this film a great classic and masterpiece, liked by both the public and the hard-pleasing critics and award agencies. The film is another example of the power of cinema in collaboration between different art mediums such moving visual art, acoustic and music to create a combined art craft that great filmmaking is all about.


In closing remarks “A Man and a Woman” one more time will be redefined based on the following criteria:  

  1. Originality: “A Man and a Woman” is original in its script and story of such a tender romance between a couple sharing grieves, its innovative filmography, editing, sound mixing, music score and songs.
  2. Technicality: The technicality of “A Man and a Woman” is in its filmography, great camera work, cinematography, film colors switching, editing, set locations, music score, sound mixing and its popular songs.
  3. Impact Factor: The influence of “A Man and a Woman” has been on many films and other media of the later years, e.g. creation of more than 300 versions of the song “A Man and a Woman”, a sequel 20 years later in 1986 and its inclusion in the Cannes Classics section at the Festival in 2016.
  4. Survival: “A Man and a Woman” has survived well to this very day for still being a pleasure to watch and as an example of a popular art filmmaking.


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