Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Feminine Cool! Vivre Sa Vie

Vivre Sa Vie ( released in 1962) was French Filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard's third film and a deceptively simple one.  The title (translated as My Life To Live) is both an affirmation of life and a question. Is it possible to be a true individual? The story is of a female, Nana (played by Godard's wife Anna Karina), and follows her in twelve short chapters.  As were all of Godard's females, Nana is blase and somewhat detached from society, the men in her life are not important because they show her nothing worth paying attention to. 

Godard observes Nana's daily routines using a documentary feel that beautifully captures the subtle nuances that make up Nana as a person.  She doesn't always make good choices and her life is not a conventional one, but no one can seem to give her any useful help or advice. 

 Worth noting and paying attention to are Vivre Sa Vie's  unique and fresh dialogue scenes.The five minute opening scene between Nana and her estranged lover Paul is shot from the back of their heads as they sit at a counter having coffee. The activity of the cafe reflects in a mirror. So what we have are three different visuals; the backs of the heads, the action behind the counter, and the action in the mirror. During another conversation the camera simply strolls over to the right and displays the busy world of Paris through a cafe window. Roger Ebert had this to say about Godard's camera style: "His camera rotates 360 degrees, twice, and then stops and moves back in the other direction - just a little to show it knows what it's doing!"

Adding to the clever dialogue scenes, music drops in from nowhere at odd times, as if it were a Greek Chorus making Nana's journey to self both mythic and tragic . One of Vivre Sa Vie's iconic sequences is an extended dance scene capturing Nana with a handheld camera as she struts around a pool room defying three irritated men in her outburst of life. And it isn't just these three men she is defying, she is daring the audience to judge her.

Anna Karina and Godard's camera operator Raoul Coutard capture pure beauty in the following clip of Nana's dance scene:


Vivre Sa Vie opens with a quote: “Lend yourself to others, but give yourself to yourself.” - from the essays of Montaigne, Book 3, Chapter 10. This quote works in the same fashion as the title. In reference to the film, Godard is both making a statement and posing a question; is this possible?
There is a childish joy inside Nana but Godard and his camera always remind us of the world outside waiting to steal it.

Anna Karina and Jean-Luc Godard at the 1963 Cannes Film Festival

This is my fourth installment of The French New Wave movement. To read more about this check out my blogs on Elevator To The Gallows, Breathless, and The 400 Blows.

Inspired further reading:

Roger Ebert's review from his list of Great Movies 

Vivre Sa Vie: The Lost Girl by Michael Atkinson 

An Audacious Experiment: The Vivre Sa Vie Soundtrack by Jean Collet 

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