A Man and a Woman
Written and directed by Claude Lelouch, a mother and father who visit their children in a school on weekends meet each other and get to know each other and fall in love.
By the ocean on a pier Anne Gauthier (Anouk Aimée) is reading the story of little Red Riding Hood to her little daughter Françoise Gauthier (Souad Amidou) and asks if she likes it. She asks what story she would like to hear next, and she says Bluebeard.
Jean-Louis Duroc (Jean-Louis Trintignant) tells Antoine Duroc (Antoine Sire) to put the top down on the car, and he gets in and tells him to the golf course. He changes his mind twice and suggests the go-carts. He is reading Time magazine. He helps the boy steer, and Antoine says he hurt his hand.
On the street Anne asks if Françoise she has lost weight, and she wants to know if she eats at school and at home. Françoise says she would like some cake.
Jean-Louis is driving around on the beach as Antoine laughs.
At night Anne brings Françoise back to her school and says she will see her again on Sunday. Jean-Louis drives up, and head mistress (Simone Paris) notes that he is driving with the top down in December. He and Antoine get out of the car, and he tells his son that if he promises to be good, next Sunday they will go boating. Antoine wants to go tomorrow. The boy goes inside, and the head mistress tells Jean-Louis that he is spoiling him. He says it is only once a week. She says the boy does not work hard but is lazy, and Jean-Louis says he takes after him. She asks what he is going to do about it. He says that she has been taking care of him for two years and has done wonders and will do even better. She says they have not yet talked seriously, and he says he cannot talk seriously to a pretty woman. She tells him to be careful because it is foggy, and the roads may be icy. He puts the top down and starts to drive off; but the woman introduces him to Anne, and he gives her a ride.
In the car she looks at him and smiles. He asks if she often misses trains. She says she does because she is not very punctual. He asks if she always manages to get a lift. She replies that she sleeps in Deauville. She says that her daughter does not work very well. He says she is intelligent but lazy, and she asks who told him that. He learns her name is Françoise and she that his son is Antoine. He asks if she comes regularly to the school, and she says every weekend when she is not working. He says he comes every Saturday and sometimes on Sundays. He lets her put on the radio, and they hear a woman singing and laugh. He tells her not to laugh because it made them cry in 1914. He asks if she is married, and she says yes. When he says he is married, she says he does not look married. He asks what a married man looks like, but she does not answer. He asks what kind of work her husband does, and she laughs.
Scenes from movies are seen, and he figures out he is a stuntman and asks how one becomes one. He tries to guess where he did it, but she says no. She is seen talking with a man while holding a script. He says it is not very original, and she agrees that getting married and having a child is not. She says what is original is the man you love. She describes her husband as fascinating, exclusive, and as having great integrity. He is passionate about people, ideas, and countries. He says he sounds like Christ. She says she once spent a week in Brazil without even going there because Pierre was in a film there. When he came home, he talked about samba for a week. She says samba came into their lives.
Pierre Gautier (Pierre Barouh) is singing a samba song to her at breakfast and while she is washing his hair at a sink. He talks to her outside while she does sit-ups. He rides a horse and chases a bull. She is on a horse too. He feeds her an orange and gives her wine. He plays guitar while he sings. They ride horses in a river. The ride with others. He sings to her at home in a suit. She kisses him and takes off his jacket. She is on the bed looking at children’s books as he sings to her.
Jean-Louis asks where she is going in Paris, and she tells him a street in Montmartre. He says he does not know this street, and she says during World War I a painter lived there and hired a Russian servant named Vladimir Ulyanov who became Lenin one year later. She thanks him for the lift and gets out. He opens his door and calls to her that he is driving to Deauville next Sunday, and he would like to meet her husband.
After a battle scene with explosions the director tells them to do it again without taking so many risks. Pierre kisses Anne, but in the next scene he screams after an explosion.
Jean-Louis says he is sorry. He did not know he was dead because of the way she talked about him. She is not sure she will be free on Sunday and asks him to call her on Saturday. She gives him her number, and he says goodnight. He gets in his car and writes down her number.
Jean-Louis drives his car to the race track. He talks to the men working on the race car. He and another driver have put on racing clothes, and they get in the car. Jean-Louis drives on the track. The car is being fixed up as they listen to a report about the race. Jean-Louis stands and checks the times of the car and asks the revolutions. He gets into a one-person racing car and drives fast. Jean-Louis picks up a phone and asks for Anne’s number to be put through in five minutes. He answers the phone and reminds her he gave her a lift and asks how she is. He says he is leaving at nine.
Jean-Louis parks by her house and reads a magazine. She comes out, and he gets out and opens the door for her. On the highway they are listening to the radio which reports rain and flooded roads. They hear that a man and a woman were killed in a sports-car accident, and he says he hates to hear that. She says especially when driving. He asks if he is a bad driver, and she says he is a normal driver. She asks what he does, and he says he has a very unusual job which makes lots of money. She imagines women giving him piles of cash as if he were a pimp. She says shame on him. He says that he is a test driver, and she confirms that he is a racing driver. They drive through water, and she says he soaked the two people on bicycles.
At the door of the school the teacher tells Anne that Françoise has a cough and advises her to keep her warm. They get into the car.
While the four are eating at a restaurant Anne asks Jean-Louis to tell her more about his job. He asks Antoine to tell her, and he says he tells her about the job he will have when he is big. He says he wants to be a fireman with 36 others. Jean-Louis says he will be chief, and Antoine agrees and says they will have two big engines with big ladders. He says they will be good for the big fires, and Jean-Louis asks about the small ones. Antoine says they won’t need the ladders for those nor much water. He says if it is locked, they will use axes and then a little water.
Anne asks Jean-Louis about his job. He says it is mostly technical and bores women. He says he can tell her some trivia, but she says it won’t bore her. He says racing drivers are superstitious, and they never have a car numbered 13. They also had accidents with 17, and Italians never use 17. He says if Ascari saw a black cat, he would stop. She suggests the children should eat, and he serves the food. She asks what he thinks is most important in racing, and he says the throb of the motor. He knows an engineer who uses organ pipes for the exhaust. He says you feel it in your whole body like a fever.
Françoise says she is not hungry or thirsty. Jean-Louis tells Antoine to ask the waiter for a Coca-Cola in Spanish. She asks why he speaks Spanish so well, and Jean-Louis says he knows English too and tells him to ask for a glass in English; but Antoine prefers to ask him in Spanish. Anne asks Jean-Louis how he feels after an accident. He feels ashamed because it is stupid. He explains that you have to go at the right speed on turns because if you go 141, you may have an accident; but if you go only 139, you will lose the race. He is writing on a pack of cigarettes and says when something is not serious, we say it is like the cinema. He asks why we do not take films serious. She says maybe it’s because we go when everything is okay. He asks if we should go when things are not okay. She asks why not. He lights a cigarette, and she asks why he breaks them. He says to smoke less and says Antoine suggested it. She says he could smoke one less.
Jean-Louis asks if she ever thought of becoming an actress. Anne admits she has but says it would be too boring. He asks why, and she says you must have an idea. He says it is easy, but she says it is not a question of it being difficult. She says everyone has their trade. He says when you’re good-looking, it is easier. He says the director matters most. She says he is handsome and asks why he does not become an actor. He says it never occurred to him. If he worked in films, he would rather be an actor. She says she likes her work and would not want to act. He asks if her job is more serious, but she says it is more genuine. He says he has many questions because he often goes to movies. She says he knows about movies, and he admits he has read film magazines. She says he has only been in films a short time and has not worked with the old hands. He asks her to tell him more about actors and actresses, but Antoine says in English that she is a big girl, and his father is a big boy. Anne asks for some coffee, and Jean-Louis tells Antoine to be quiet. He asks him what he wants to do, and Antoine says he wants to play. He wants to go on a boat. Jean-Louis says he promised, and asks if he was a good boy. He says yes, and he asks Françoise if she was a good girl. The kids are excited and leave the table.
The four are on a small boat in the afternoon. They keep the children warm between them. They get off the boat and walk on the beach. The kids chase seagulls. Anne says they are loving it, and Jean-Louis says they get along well and have been friends for a long time. He says that Antoine noticed her a while back and said that Françoise is pretty; but he only spoke to her a couple times. She says he is cute. She observes a man walking his dog, and he asks if she knows the sculptor Giacometti. She likes his work. He says that Giacometti said that if he was caught in a fire and had to choose between a cat and a Rembrandt, he would save the cat. She says he would let that cat go, and he asks if he said that. She says that is what makes it so wonderful. He agrees and says he chooses life above art. She wonders why he asked her about him, and he says it was because of the man and his dog.
In the car at night she smiles at him as he drives. He holds her hand, and she looks at him seriously. She says he never talks about his wife.
Valerie Duroc (Valérie Lagrange) is on the telephone telling Jean-Louis that her complete love is with him always to the end. She repeats she loves him.
Jean-Louis is waiting before a race. He puts on his helmet. The race begins with the drivers getting in their cars and starting them. Valerie is watching the race on television. Later the siren of an ambulance is heard. Jean-Louis is carried on a stretcher in a hospital and put on a table.
Valerie is driving and listening to the report about his accident. She is waiting in the hospital and is worried. She sees him being wheeled out of surgery unconscious. A doctor talks to her after his three-hour operation. A report tells how she suffered a nervous breakdown. She runs out of the hospital. The announcer says it is confirmed that she took her own life.
During rain in the car he tells Anne that next week he is going to drive in the Monte Carlo rally; but as soon as he gets back, he will call her. She says good night and gets out, and he drives off.
Jean-Louis comes into a room and kisses his mistress (Yane Barry) in bed. He says he has bad news for her, and she says he did not find her desk for her. He says he found no desk in Deauville. She asks if he is going to undress and come to bed, and he says yes. She asks when she is going to meet his son. He says when he is old enough to make love to her. She says she would make a good mother. She asks about him going out with twins. He asks where she heard that, and she says it was in a racing magazine. He finds the article in the magazine and reads it to her. She asks why he is telling her this, and he says the paper never lies.
A marching band is playing at the Monte Carlo rally. The competitors are leaving from Oslo and will be driving through Europe. Jean-Louis is driving a Mustang and starts his journey at night.
Anne buys a newspaper and reads about the rally. She is working on a movie set with camels. Jean-Louis is telling his co-driver what the map shows about the road ahead. They drive in snow. Out of 273 cars only 80 are still in the race. Jean-Louis sleeps in the back seat while his partner drives. Anne is walking in Paris. Their Mustang skids on the snowy roads. Anne is getting her hair done. Jean-Louis has one of 42 cars that has finished. There is a dispute about who should be considered the winners.
Anne calls Monte Carlo and asks for Jean-Louis in the rally. She leaves the message for him, “Bravo. I love you, Anne.” In a restaurant a waiter delivers the message to Jean-Louis. He gets up from the table. He says something to the hotel clerk and runs into the hall.
Jean-Louis pulls his Mustang into a gas station and knocks on the door. The attendant comes out to give him gas. The attendant does not start until he puts out his cigarette. Jean-Louis is thinking it took courage for her to send that telegram. He thinks he would not have the guts to do that. He is driving in the rain and expects to reach Paris at about 6:30. He thinks she will still be in bed and plans to go to a bistro. He reasons that because of the telegram, he could go and see her. He does not know what floor she is on, and he would have to wake up the concierge. He imagines what he might say. He plans to say that he has driven 2,000 or 3,000 miles to see her. He will say he is sorry, but he is going up. He plans to ring only once so as not to upset her. He figures she will take time to wake and may not open her door. She will ask who is there, and he wonders what he will say. He plans to say Antoine’s father because that sounds better. When she opens the door, they will be face to face. He expects that she will be embarrassed which is normal. She will offer to make some coffee because he has come a long way and needs it. He imagines walking in but thinks he should say something. He calls himself a coward and considers whether he should stop off in Lyons and send her a telegram. He thinks that is a good idea but then rejects it because his telegram would arrive only a few minutes before he does. It will break her sleep, and then he would wake her up again. He is glad he has time to think of a better plan.
He is driving early in the morning and uses an electric razor on his face. He parks the car in front of her building and runs in and learns her apartment number. He goes up the elevator. He comes back down and asks the lady again what she may be doing. He says he is police, and the lady says she went to Deauville.
Jean-Louis drives his Mustang fast. The head mistress tells him she is surprised to see him because she saw him on television at Monte Carlo. He asks if he might run into them if he goes that way. She says he will past the big pier. He says if they come back while he is gone to tell them to wait there for him. She agrees and says she will see him in a while. He drives off and goes to the pier.
Jean-Louis is standing on the pier and runs to his car and drives it back off the pier. He drives by the beach and parks his car and flashes his lights at Anne and the two children. He hugs Anne. The man is walking his dog.
At the school Antoine and Françoise wave goodbye as Françoise and Anne drive off in the Mustang.
Françoise and Anne are kissing in bed as they make love. They move around and clasp hands for a moment. A heartbeat is heard. Anne remembers being with her husband in the snow. They hug and kiss. She and her husband ride horses. She recalls being with him at the beach and other places. The scenes with her husband are in color, but the lovemaking with Jean-Louis is in black and white. Jean-Louis asks her why, and she says it is because of her husband. He says he is dead, but she shakes her head. They have dressed and sit on opposite sides of the bed. She lights a cigarette. She says she should take the train and gets up. He calls for his bill and asks when is the next train to Paris. They go down the elevator together. He pays the bill, and they go out.
At the train station she gets on a train, and he asks if it is direct. She says she has to change. He asks why she said her husband was dead. She says he is dead but not yet for her. Standing by the train he thinks how some Sundays begin well but end badly. He thinks it is crazy to refuse happiness. The train leaves. He asks himself what he would do if this happened again. He wonders what else he could do. He saw her for months as a pal, and he wonders if they will end up as pals.
As he drives, he admits to himself that he does not understand women. He figures her husband must have been quite a guy. He thinks if he had lived, he might have become an old fool; but this way he may always be a great guy. He says they might have made a great couple or a pair of fools. He remembers her and him ordering in a restaurant. She asks him what time he left Monte Carlo last night. He tells the waiter that is all. She says he was not happy because they did not order enough. He asks her if she wants him to order more, and he calls the waiter back. He asks the waiter if they have a room. Anne is remembering on the train, he while he is driving.
Jean-Louis parks the car and runs up stairs and goes to meet her train. He sees the train stop and looks for her. She is walking toward him and sees him, and they hug.
This romantic drama depicts a friendship between a widow and a widower drawn together by children the same age. He finds that she may not be over late husband yet, but he wants to give it another chance.