A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Friday, March 23, 2018

Vivre Sa Vie (Jean-Luc Godard, 1962)

Anna Karina in Vivre Sa Vie
Nana Kleinfrankenheim: Anna Karina
Raoul: Sady Rebbot
Paul: André S. Labarthe
Yvette: Guylaine Schlumberger
Le chef: Gérard Hoffman
Elisabeth: Monique Messine
Journaliste: Paul Pavel
Dimitri: Dimitri Dineff
Jeune homme: Peter Kassovitz
Luigi: Eric Schlumberger
Le philosophe: Brice Parain

Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Screenplay: Jean-Luc Godard
Cinematography: Raoul Coutard
Film editing: Jean-Luc Godard, Agnès Guillemot
Music: Michel Legrand

The essential tension of Vivre Sa Vie comes from Jean-Luc Godard's dry intellectual detachment and self-conscious filmmaking set against his exquisitely passionate involvement with Anna Karina. It shows itself at the very beginning, when Godard gives us almost a mug shot treatment of Karina's face -- frontal, right profile, left profile -- and then follows with an extended scene that features only the back of her head. And it continues through to the end in which Edgar Allan Poe's story about an artist who sucks the life out of his beloved by painting her portrait foreshadows the death of Karina's character, Nana. On one level, the film posits art as the enemy of life, while on the other, art becomes a source of life. In the latter case, I'm thinking of the celebrated scene in which Nana is brought to tears by watching Renée Falconetti in The Passion of Joan of Arc (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1928). It can be argued that Nana identifies with Joan as a fellow martyr: Joan to her faith in God, Nana to her faith in herself -- viz., the speech in which she claims "responsibility" for everything she does. Vivre Sa Vie is full of such intellectual puzzles, including the extended conversation between Nana and the philosopher Brice Parain. But it's Karina's performance that lifts the film out of the thicket of mid-century existentialism that it threatens to become ensnared by. She makes Nana one of the essential characters not just of the French New Wave but of the entire history of movies.

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