Portrait of the French Woman

July 5, 2009

She’s thirty-two.

She’s more seductive than beautiful.

She too might be called in a certain way “The Look.” Everything about her—her words, her movements—is manifest in her expression.

This look is not self-conscious. She looks for the sake of looking. Her look doesn’t define her conduct, it always exceeds it.

No doubt all women have beautiful eyes when making love. But love throws this woman’s soul into greater confusion (the choice of the term is voluntarily Stendhalian) than it does with most women, because she is “more in love with love itself” than most women are.

She knows people don’t die of love. In the course of her life she’s had a wonderful opportunity to die of love. She didn’t die at Nevers. Since then, and till now at Hiroshima, where she meets this Japanese, she carries within her, with her, this vague yearning that marks a reprieved person faced with a unique chance to determine her own fate.

It’s not the fact of having been shaved and disgraced that marks her life, it’s the already mentioned defeat: the fact that she didn’t die of love on August 2, 1944, on the banks of the Loire.

This is not in contradiction with her attitude at Hiroshima with the Japanese. On the contrary, this has a direct bearing on her attitude with the Japanese. . . . What she tells the Japanese is this lost opportunity which has made her what she is.

The story she tells of this lost opportunity literally transports her outside herself and carries her toward this new man.

To give oneself, body and soul, that’s it.

That is the equivalent not only of amorous possession, but of a marriage.

She gives this Japanese—at Hiroshima—her most precious possession: herself as she now is, her survival after the death of her love at Nevers.

—from Margeurite Duras’ notes
on her screenplay for
Hiroshima, mon amour
(1959, dir. Alain Resnais),
prior to the shooting of the film

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One Response to “Portrait of the French Woman”


  1. […] Portrait of the French Woman […]


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