Charlotte meets with her lover, Robert, who wants her to divorce her husband Pierre, and have a child with him. She goes to collect her son - Pierre's son from his first marriage - from school, then goes to the airport to meet her husband and his colleague, the filmmaker Roger Leenhardt. They have returned from Frankfurt where they observed something of the Frankfurt Auschwitz Trials. They go back to the couples apartment for dinner. After dinner they discuss the Holocaust and move to the question of memory and the difficulty of commemorating the Holocaust. After Roger's departure Charlotte and her husband play-fight and make love. The next morning the maid tells Charlotte a long story of a sexual encounter - (a text Godard derived from Louis-Ferdinand Céline's Mort a credit). Charlotte then attends a fashion photo-shoot at a swimming pool and listens in at a nearby café as two teenage girls discuss their love life. She goes to the doctor and learns that she is pregnant. She does not know which man is the father. Charlotte and Robert meet at Orly Airport. He is about to fly to Marseille to act in a production of Racine's Bérénice. She questions him about love. As he prepares to leave for his flight she cries and tells him C'est fini - It's over.
- Macha Méril : Charlotte
- Bernard Noël : Robert, the lover
- Philippe Leroy : Pierre, the husband
- Roger Leenhardt : Pierre's friend, the filmmaker
- Rita Maiden : The maid
- Margaret Le-Van : a woman at the swimming pool
- Véronique Duval : another woman at the pool
- Christophe Bourseiller : Nicolas
- André Lesourd : "Dédé" the mechanic at the airport
Whilst in Cannes in May 1964 Godard met Luigi Chiarini, the director of the 1964 Venice Film Festival, and offered to make a film that would be completed in three months in time to premiere at Venice - the festival would run from August 27 to September 10. The film would be the story of a woman, her husband, and her lover, and the woman would find out that she is pregnant and not know whose child it is. The situation was mirrored to a great extent in François Truffaut's La Peau Douce, a film Godard admired, that had been based on the story of Truffauts own infidelity. Godard wrote to Truffaut telling him he would take his film in a different direction if he thought his project too similar. Yet while Truffaut's film was a 'compact, classical melodrama' Godards would be 'an explicitly and stringently modernist film', the melodrama subordinated 'to a surprisingly abstract style of filming'. Having liked André Cayatte's pair of films, Anatomy of a Marriage: My Days with Jean-Marc/Anatomy of a Marriage: My Days with Françoise - L'Amour conjugale, 1963, Godard chose Macha Méril, an actress who had featured in both in a supporting role, to play Charlotte.
The Married Woman - Godard's original title for his film - was shown at the Venice Film Festival on 8 September 1964. It was well received. Michelangelo Antonioni, whose first colour film Red Desert was also being shown in competition, went up to Godard after the screening and congratulated him. And it was praised by French critics. Cahiers du cinéma, which had not praised Bande à part, greeted The Married Woman as a major artistic and intellectual work. In September however, the Commission de Controle (the censorship board) voted 13-5, with two abstentions, to ban the film. Objections centred on the title, which the board said implied all married women were adulterous, - and on the film's devotion 'to the salacious illustration of scenes of sexuality'. The commission's reasons were not made public but were relayed to the minister of information, Alain Peyrefitte. He agreed to meet Godard and months of debate and negotiation followed. Godard believed the real problem was political and that 'The people of the commission have sensed that my film attacks a certain mode of life, that of air conditioning, of the prefabricated, of advertising'. Ultimately Godard made a few changes, including the title, though he refused to remove references to concentration camp inmates that Peyrefitte had wanted. The film was released on December 5.
The credits are accompanied by a Beethoven string quartet - one of five that are heard in the course of the film. Quand le film est triste, sung by Sylvie Vartan, accompanies a montage of magazine advertising images.