Sunday 16 September 2012

Vivre Sa Vie (My Life to Live) [1962]

Vivre Sa Vie, French iconoclast Jean-Luc Godard’s fourth feature film, remains a quintessential representative of his early Nouvelle Vague days – audacious narrative choice coupled with avant-garde exercise on form and film grammar, and blended with freewheeling stylistic experiments and strong sociopolitical commentaries, yet infused with the kind of breezy freshness that marked that breathtaking phase of his career. Told in the form of a novella comprising of twelve tableaux, this was an episodic chronicle of a young Parisian lady who wanted to be a movie actress but is compelled into a life of prostitution. Anna Karina, the then muse of Godard, played the role of Nana, a rather shallow-minded woman who leaves her husband and drifts towards a life fraught with uncertainty and moral alienation. Each of the twelve chapters begins with a short introduction, followed by Godard’s meditation on a host of themes ranging from radical Leftism, capitalism and contemporary French society to the role of cinema as a medium. Filled with exquisite long takes, at times he veered towards documentary filmmaking and realism, while at others freely made use of such iconic techniques as jump cuts (most memorably, visually depicting the staccato bursts of a machine gun), breaking the fourth wall, improvised dialogues, etc. The film might appear a tad pretentious at times, as in the extended monologue on the legalities of prostitution or the rather in-your-face climax; but, it was also not short of moments of inspired brilliance, like the fascinating and deeply philosophical conversation that Nana has with Brice Parain in a café, her silent tears while watching Dreyer's The Passion of Joan of Arc, or her impromptu jig in a pool-hall.

Note: My recent review of this film can be found here.

Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Genre: Drama/Psychological Drama/Urban Drama/Avant-Garde
Language: French
Country: France

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