Agnès Varda Mark Abley - Essay

Mark Abley

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[One Sings, the Other Doesn't is] full of virtues and empty of life. With a plot thicker than The Edge of Night, with stylish acting and memorable images, One Sings, the Other Doesn't sinks under the weight of its worthiness. (pp. 69-70)

There are some things Varda cares passionately about, notably a woman's right to abortion: When Pomme and Susanne meet after a long separation, it's at a pro-abortion rally where Pomme sings Mon corps, c'est à moi. But the movie is so cool and passive that you long for any sort of passion. If it lacks the stridency of a Lina Wertmüller movie, it also lacks the risk and flamboyance that made Swept Away or Seven Beauties compulsively watchable.

One Sings is unusually perceptive about children and friendship. And it's laden with telling moments such as Suzanne, forbidden from typing in her father's house, blowing on her freezing fingers as she learns to type in a shed, surrounded by cows. But the moments don't connect; there's no drive or fire. The music should have helped, only Mairesse is a woeful singer and Varda a dire lyricist. The real failure of this movie is that it doesn't make us care. It ends in a flush of sweetness and light; the New Wave is pumping old water onto familiar shores. (p. 70)

Mark Abley, "Fear of Flying beyond Feminism," in Maclean's Magazine (© 1978 by Maclean's Magazine; reprinted by permission), Vol. 91, No. 28, November 20, 1978, pp. 69-70.