Love from its very nature must be transitory. To seek for a secret that would render it constant would be a wild search for the philosopher's stone or the grand panacea: and the discovery would be equally useless, or rather, pernicious to mankind. The most holy bond of society is friendship.
Agnes Varda's very touching film is a bewitching tale about two French women who become friends during a period of rootlessness for each. Pauline leaves home at seventeen to try to make it on her own as a singer; Suzanne is left alone with two small children after her lover commits suicide. Even through the two women have very little in common, they feel good with each other. Theirs is a natural, effortless relationship. At one point, Pauline describes it as "like love, with no heartaches." Over the years they are forced to go in separate directions. Suzanne has to live with her parents on their farm; later she moves to Southern France and sets up a family planning center; Pauline now calling herself Apple forms a group of feminist troubadours who practice consciousness raising through their songs.
The two women's interests intersect and they meet ten years later at a rally for women's abortion rights. They pick up where they left off, sharing news of their loves Apple's for Darius, an Iranian economist, Suzanne's for her lovely children and their experiences. Through their struggles and successes, director Varda celebrates the particular joys of being a woman. Over thousands of miles (Apple live in Iran for a while) and periods of loneliness and happiness, the two keep in touch with postcards and occasional letters. Their friendship remains a holy bond.
One Sings, The Other Doesn't is a visually rich movie with a luxuriant appreciation of people and places. Varda communicates more to us by sentiment than by events. Whereas other films about feminism have stumbled under the heavy weight of rhetoric and an animosity toward men, this one skirts both difficulties and comes out at the end affirming how women's liberation opens one up to the richness of the human adventure. Valerie Mairesse's portrayal of Apple is a masterful triumph marked by the graceful way she moves through the character's various stages of development in maturity. And Therese Liotard brings a quiet intensity to the role of Suzanne, a survivor who overcomes bad circumstances. One Sings, The Other Doesn't is a valentine to female friendship and the worldwide family of women.