As Jean-Luc Godard used contemplation of classical paintings to counterpoint calmly the fragmented cinematic prose-poetry style of his previous Passion, in First Name: Carmen he intersperses the main action throughout with close looks at the Quatuor Prat ensemble rehearsing and playing a series of Beethoven quartets. He also has Raoul Coutard’s expert camera divert to shots of the sea and of Paris traffic.
Film has no Bizet, but the title character is rather a gypsy, attached to a group of terrorists, working for an unnamed cause. Having held up a bank, Carmen (Maruschka Detmers) starts what develops into a love affair with the young cop, Joseph (Jacques Bonnaffe), who tried to stop her from getting away.
Carmen and Joseph occasionally go to bed with each other, but most of the time they just undress, fight, and dress again. There is some mayhem in the film, but it is always treated mostly as a joke: the chairwoman in the bank taking trouble not to disturb the dead bodies while she sweeps the floor clean of blood, or innocent bystanders just keeping their noses in their newspapers while large-scale killing goes on right next to them, etc.
There is, on the whole, more crude humor and less poetical-political philosophy than in most of Godard’s earlier works. He calls his new film a Western. He originally wrote the title role for Isabelle Adjani, but the old-fashioned sultry look of Dutch replacement Maruschka Detmers serves Godard’s purposes well.