Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
Original title: Vivre Sa Vie: Film En Douze Tableaux
Alternate title: My Life To Live, It’s My Life
France, 1962. Les Films de la Pleiade, Pathe Consortium Cinema. Story and Screenplay by Jean-Luc Godard, additional narrative by Marcel Sacotte, based on the book Ou en est La Prostitution by Marcel Sacotte. Cinematography by Raoul Coutard. Produced by Pierre Braunberger. Music by Michel Legrand. Costume Design by Christiane Fageol. Film Editing by Jean-Luc Godard, Agnes Guillemot.
Anna Karina gives the best performance of any film she made with her then-husband Jean-Luc Godard in this New Wave classic. In twelve somewhat disjointed scenes she plays a likeable Parisian store clerk who, thanks to some money troubles, turns a few tricks and ends up a professional streetwalker complete with pimp protection. Naturally she also finds herself in Parisian cafes having conversations about life and art, since Godard won’t even let you fuck for money without forcing you to wax intellectual about it. The subject matter may have been shocking at the time (it was later this decade that news about wealthy Parisian housewives working as prostitutes would inspire movies like Belle De Jour and Godard’s own Two Or Three Things I Know About Her), but here it’s the tenderness that makes the film so surprising. Godard’s view of hookerdom betrays his bourgeois roots (other than a bitter ending it’s quite a pleasant, profitable experience for this lovely lass), but he lets Karina have a full emotional range of possibility in exploring the character’s experience. Her carefree laugh is a deeply felt pleasure, while her vulnerability in her more tender moments is heartbreaking until, alas, her profession enforces the necessity of her face becoming more and more of a mask. An exquisite film that fans of one of the New Wave’s prime architects, and its most enduring human symbol, will revel in.