Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Sight & Sound Challenge: Vivre Sa Vie (1962)

Film: Vivre Sa Vie (71/250) 
Critics Poll: 144th 
Directors Poll: 67th 
First Time/Rewatch: Rewatch

It's hard for me to watch this film and focus on anything other than how incredibly lovely Anna Karina's face is. It's so open, so trusting, so vulnerable, so defiant. It's a face that carries the simple story of this film. Nana (Karina) wants to be an actress, yet she struggles for money and eventually turns to prostitution. It's a premise that's straightforward enough, but is enriched by moments that look into her soul, moments that let us see into the mind of this character, and of the filmmaker. There is a scene where she is watching the Carl Theodor Dreyer film The Passion of Joan of Arc (another I have to watch for this challenge!) and she has tears streaming down her face. Is she foreseeing her own fate? At first glance it might seem that she is just an innocent victim of this cruel world, but then we hear this speech:

“I think we’re always responsible for our actions. We’re free. I raise my hand – I’m responsible. I turn my head to the right – I’m responsible. I’m unhappy – I’m responsible. I smoke a cigarette – I’m responsible. I shut my eyes – I’m responsible. I forget that I’m responsible, but I am. I told you escape is a pipe dream. After all, everything is beautiful. You only have to take an interest in things, see their beauty. It’s true. After all, things are just what they are. A face is a face. Plates are plates. Men are men. And life…is life."

Is director Godard saying she deserves whatever she gets? Is she being punished for leaving her family behind? For having ambition? For not having enough ambition? It's no secret that Godard's marriage to his leading lady was a rocky one, so one can imagine what was driving this indictment. Regardless of whatever was happening behind the camera, the film is a compelling one, with a character who, in spite of everything, can still laugh, can still dance. 

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