Twelve episodic tales in the life of a Parisian woman and her slow descent into prostitution.Twelve episodic tales in the life of a Parisian woman and her slow descent into prostitution.Twelve episodic tales in the life of a Parisian woman and her slow descent into prostitution.
The film opens with an entrancing first ten minutes. The credit sequence and ensuing scene introduce the crucial theme of acting versus reality. Nana, played by Anna Karina, seems to never truly escape the personality of the actress who portrays her. Instead of avoiding this, Godard embraces the ambiguity and creates an entire film that obsesses over Karina's image. From the credits to "Fin"? the audience, like Nana, is fixated on her outward appearance. She constantly references her desire to be in movies and have her picture taken. Ultimately, she becomes a prostitute, seemingly the only place to turn for a girl who allows herself to be mercilessly controlled by men. This tragedy is underscored by her clear desire to be "special"? and, most potently, in her tearful viewing of Jeanne d'arc, a woman who faces death at the hands of men. Nana's personality and development can be seen as a vehicle for Godard's philosophy on film. The "men photographing women" had become perverted to the point of solicitation and death. The obvious parallels between the ending of VIVRE and BREATHLESS suggest a pessimistic condemnation of contemporary law and society.
Godard's deliberate camera motion, defiant attitude towards cinematic grammar, and clear pacing created a film that, though fictional, is one of the most honest human portraits available. Always experimenting with sound, the director never succumbs to standard over-the- shoulder dialogue sequences. Instead, he accesses another level of meaning by making deliberate choices over who is seen when saying specific words. Sometimes there are cuts and sometimes there are pans, but never is there a decision that seems arbitrary or purely for the sake of ease. While Godard's films do own a simple and unashamed quality that might lend itself to less expensive filmmaking, it is clear that his choices serve specific purposes and are always a slave to the greater objectives in the film. One of the most striking scenes in VIVRE SA VIE is where Nana is writing a letter. It is a simple act on which most directors would only spend a few seconds. Instead, Godard places a close-up on the letter and allows the audience to watch the entire process and become engulfed in Nana's (or Karina's) beautiful handwriting and the earnest quality of the letter.
VIVRE SA VIE successfully provides a tidy summary of Godard's quirky brilliance. For those willing to explore his genius, this film is the ideal starting place (if not working chronologically). But be careful. Once his capabilities are discovered, they will never leave you.
- Mar 7, 2012