Sunday, September 09, 2012

Vivre Sa Vie

Directed by Jean-Luc Godard and written by Godard and Marcel Sacotte, Vivre sa vie (My Life to Live) is the story of a young Parisian woman who leaves her husband and child to become an actress as she later becomes a prostitute. Told in 12 scenes, the film explores the life of a woman as she tries to make a new life for herself. Starring Anna Karina, Sady Rebbot, Andre S. Lebarthe, Guylaine Schlumberger, and Gerard Hoffman. Vivre sa vie is ravishing yet provocative drama from Jean-Luc Godard.

The film is essentially the story of this young woman named Nana (Anna Karina) who decides to leave her husband Paul (Andre S. Lebarthe) to pursue a career in acting. When that doesn’t go well as she takes on various odd jobs, she becomes a prostitute as she gets the attention of a pimp named Raoul (Sady Rebbot) and becomes one of his prostitutes. At first, things go well due to the money she’s making and the lifestyle she has but it would eventually lead to have her question the direction of her life. Particularly as she would meet a philosopher (Brice Parain) who would make her question her choices even more. The story is told in 12 key scenes to display the evolution of this woman’s life as she goes from being independent to losing control of what she wanted to do.

The screenplay that Jean-Luc Godard and Marcel Sacotte has a very unique structure in the way it plots these small moments in the life of Nana as she tries to take control of her life. The first act is about her leaving her marriage to fulfill a life of independence only to realize that it’s not as simply as she thought it would be as there would be a key scene of her watching The Passion of Joan of Arc that would make an impact about what she should do. The second act is about her becoming a prostitute and meeting Raoul who would show her the ropes to be professional. The third act is about her success in the trade and moments such as meeting a philosopher that would force her to question the decision of her life.

Godard’s direction is very stylish in the way he frames his actors in a shot as well as the way he moves his camera around to capture a simple conversation. The film’s first scene has the camera shooting Nana from the back of her head as she’s talking to her husband who isn’t scene as it then cuts to him talking with the camera showing the back of his head. It’s to create something that is very unconventional yet does enough to establish what is going on. The direction always creates scenes that always say something where Godard would intentionally cut out dialogue to create a silent moment in order to emphasize what Nana is feeling without needing any words.

The direction of the film is very loose as it is told in a cinema verite style despite the lack of shaky hand-held cameras for a more controlled sense of camera movements. Even as Godard always has tracking shots of the city to display the world that Nana lives in as it features numerous references to films and such including her hairstyle. Scenes such as Nana dancing to a music at a pool hall is among one of these moments where Godard just lets the camera go to have the scene be played out naturally. Others like a conversation Nana has with Raoul at a cafĂ© has the camera move slowly side to side with the back of Raoul’s head shown as it then cuts to a two-shot where both are in the frame as the camera then does a close-up to Nana. The images that Godard makes are truly captivating in the way they are presented as he creates a mesmerizing portrait of a young woman’s life.

Cinematographer Raoul Coutard does brilliant work with the film‘s black-and-white cinematography to capture the vibrant world of Paris with its locations along with gorgeous yet intimate shots of the settings and the close-ups that includes the interrogation scene where Nana is darkly lit for that scene. Editors Jean-Luc Godard and Agnes Guillemot do fantastic work with the editing by utilizing lots of stylish jump-cuts to play out the conversations and more active moments of the film while using fade-outs as transitional cuts. Costume designer Christiane Fageol does nice work with the clothes that Nana wears to play out her evolution as she goes from simple to a prostitute with class.

Sound editor Lila Lakshmanan does terrific work with the sound to capture the intimacy of the cafes and places that Nana frequents at. The film’s music by Michel Legrand is excellent for its mournful theme that is filled with somber string arrangements to play out the melancholia of Nana’s journey. The soundtrack includes numerous French pop music of the times including a song by Jean Ferrat.

The film’s cast is superb for the ensemble that is created as it features some notable small performances from Guylaine Schlumberger as a fellow prostitute named Yvette, Gerard Hoffman as a police chief who interrogates Nana, Brice Parain as the philosopher that Nana meets late in the film, and Andre S. Lebarthe as Nana’s husband Paul. Sady Rebbot is wonderful as the pimp Raoul who shows Nana the ropes of how to be a professional hooker while guiding her journey that would eventually lead to trouble. Finally, there’s Anna Karina in a marvelous performance as Nana where Karina displays a great sense of restraint as a woman trying to forge her own path in life. Karina also has this charisma that is intoxicating to watch as she truly radiates every moment she’s in that includes some of the film’s darker moments.

Vivre sa vie is a magnificent film from Jean-Luc Godard that features an incredible performance from Anna Karina. The film is definitely one of Godard’s essential films of his revered period in the 1960s as well as a very intriguing piece about a woman seeking her own place in the world. In the end, Vivre sa vie is an exhilarating film from Jean-Luc Godard.

Jean-Luc Godard Films: All the Boys Are Called Patrick - Charlotte et son Jules - Breathless - The Little Soldier - A Woman is a Woman - The Carabineers - Contempt - Band of Outsiders - A Married Woman - Alphaville - Pierrot Le Fou - Masculine Feminine - Made in U.S.A. - Two or Three Things I Know About Her - La Chinoise - Weekend - One Plus One (Sympathy for the Devil) - (Joy of Learning) - (British Sounds) - Tout va Bien - (Letter to Jane) - (One A.M.) - (Number Two) - (Here and Elsewhere) - (Every Man for Himself) - (Passion) - (First Name: Carmen) - Hail, Mary - (Soft and Hard) - (Detective) - (King Lear (1987 film)) - (Keep Your Right Up) - (Nouvelle Vague) - (Allemagne 90 neuf zero) - (JLG/JLG-A Self-Portrait in December) - For Ever Mozart - (Historie(s) de Cinema) - (In Praise of Love) - (Notre Musique) - (Film Socialisme) - (Adieu au Language) - (The Image Book)

© thevoid99 2012


Alex Withrow said...

Great review of my favorite Godard. Quite simply one of the finest films I've ever seen. I'm so taken with its candid tragedy.

Unknown said...

Magnificent is right. To describe both the film and Anna Karina.

thevoid99 said...

@Alex-It's definitely a really mesmerizing film and I was just into it. A must-see for all film buffs.

@Bonjour-The film is already making me eager to check out more films with Godard and Anna Karina. What a beauty.