Wednesday 12 October 2022

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

 Vivre Sa Vie – with its desolate realism, melancholy and pathos – possibly ranks among Godard’s most solemn, understated and restrained works. Yet, it was also splendidly suffused with wry ironies, socio-political jabs, Brechtian technique, metatextuality, detours and dazzling narrative ingenuity – and this interplay between aesthetics, form, structure, themes and political undercurrents made this a work of rare beauty, depth and bravado. Broken into twelve tableaux – each beginning with an intertitle reminiscent of pre-20th century literature – it chronicled the life of the lovely and lost Nana (anagram of Godard’s muse and the film’s effervescent heroine Anna Karina), who wishes to escape from her dreary existence. She therefore breaks off her marriage and quits her job in a record store, dreaming of becoming a movie actress, but ends up as a prostitute on the streets of Paris. Godard interspersed her poignant, edgy and doomed journey with sublime moments, droll interludes, rich literary allusions and bravura filmmaking. In an iconic scene Nana is captured in a heart-breaking close-up as she watches Falconetti in Dreyer’s The Passion ofJoan of Arc; in another unforgettable sequence, she lets herself loose through a carefree dance to a pulsating jazz score in a pool room; the murder of an Algerian protestor being shot at by the French police is juxtaposed with a bravura jump-cut montage; the film’s elegiac score is often stopped without a cue; French prostitution laws are detailed in a deadpan voice akin to an educational newsreel; Truffaut’s Jules and Jim is shown playing at a Paris cinema; Baudelaire’s translation of Poe’s writing being read out by Godard’s voiceover; a long sequence where renowned philosopher Brice Parain answers Nana’s questions on language, love and whatnot.

Note: My earlier review of the 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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