Vivre sa vie (image 1)

One of the most extraordinary, beautiful, and original works of art that I know of.

Susan Sontag

Screened as part of Autumn Events 2013

Vivre sa vie 1962

Directed by Jean-Luc Godard

“A milestone 'Everything is permissible’ moment in narrative film, Godard's fourth feature is a rocket from Pandora's Box.” — Nick Pinkerton, Village Voice

France In French with English subtitles
83 minutes B&W

Director

Producer

Pierre Braunberger

Screenplay

Jean-Luc Godard, Marcel Sacotte

Photography

Raoul Coutard

Editors

Agnès Guillemot, Lila Lakshmanan

Music

Michel Legrand

With

Anna Karina, Sady Rebbot, André S. Labarthe, Guylaine Schlumberger, Brice Parain, Peter Kassovitz, Dimitri Dinoff, Monique Messine, Gérard Hoffman

“Forty-six [now 51] years later the brute genius of Jean-Luc Godard continues to amaze. In the French New Waver's 1962 black-and-white gem Vivre sa vie (To Live One's Life, or My Life to Live), Godard frames and edits his shots, moves the camera, uses music, and deploys his actors in ways that still seem radical – even as several generations of directors since have cribbed and stolen from him. It's no fluke that Quentin Tarantino named his production company after a Godard title.

Sure, this portrait of Nana, a young Parisienne who turns to prostitution - played with startling composure by Anna Karina (Godard's wife at the time) – has all the easily parodied attributes of the French art-house classic: everyone with a Gitanes in their mouth, stooped over coffee in a bar tabac, playing pinball and talking Plato, oozing impossible nonchalance.

But Vivre sa vie, for all its demoded, midcentury Gallicness, remains both a dazzling cinematic experiment and a heart-mover. Nana's curiosity, her loneliness, her almost casual descent into prostitution – and her flashes of simple joy – are captured with elliptical precision in the 12 chapters of Godard's film. When Karina, a transfixing beauty, stares directly into the camera, it's like she's burning a hole into the viewer's soul. And then Godard tosses some old movie melodrama out there, a couple of gangster-pic shootouts, as if the idea of emotional truth were too scary to approach head-on. But somehow, even his ridiculous ending jolts with passion.” — Steven Rea, Philadelphia Inquirer

“A milestone ‘Everything is permissible’ moment in narrative film, Godard's fourth feature is a rocket from Pandora's Box.” — Nick Pinkerton, Village Voice

Recommended

Vivre sa vie: the Lost Girl by Michael Atkinson for the Criterion Collection