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My Life to Live

31 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Nana (Anna Karina) is a Parisian salesgirl who drifts into prostitution. The story is told in the form of a documentary, separated into 12 tableaux. Godard has said that the division into tableaux was to emphasize the theatrical nature of the film, and also because when you look at something for too long you end up knowing less about it. Breaking it up into bite-size chunks can be helpful. What we see is a romantic portrait of womanhood caught between her own role (she wants to be an actress) and that which she is allowed or compelled to do. This is brought home most poignantly when Nana goes to a showing of Carl Dreyer's The Passion of Joan of Arc and her tear-streaked face is intercut with that of Maria Falconetti playing Joan, about to be led to the stake. Add to that the further layer that we have a Danish actress (Karina) in a French film, watching a French actress (Falconetti) in a Danish film, and the implications play out grimly. This is one of Godard's finest films, both austere and compellingly watchable. --Jim Gay

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Alfred Adam, Henri Attal, Marcel Charton, Dimitri Dineff, Jack Florency
  • Directors: Jean-Luc Godard
  • Format: Black & White, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: French (Dolby Digital 1.0)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Fox Lorber
  • DVD Release Date: August 12, 1998
  • Run Time: 85 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 6301883047
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #92,653 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "My Life to Live" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 26 people found the following review helpful By "doctor_smith" on September 16, 2002
Format: DVD
"My Life to Live ("Vivre Sa Vie)," released in 1962, was director Jean-Luc Godard's fourth feature film and one of the finest, most exhilarating examples of the French New Wave. The great cultural critic Susan Sontag considered the film to be "one of the most extraordinary, beautiful, and original works of art that I know of." The film is now forty years old, and since its original release it has, unfortunately, been somewhat forgotten, not nearly referred to as much as Godard's "Breathless" and "Weekend." In many ways, however, "My Life to Live" is Godard's most accomplished work. It encapsulates all of the main cinematic innovations of the New Wave movement; in its visual style, it is refreshingly innovative (even decades later) and often awfully beautiful; and it redefines cinematic history at the same time that it pays homage to that history.
"My Life to Live" is part crime drama, part B-movie, but, most of all, the story of a young Parisian woman's descent into prostitution and existential trauma. It offers little or no overt explanation for events or for the choices and actions made by its characters. It proceeds largely through dialogue. And it features the kinds of jump cuts and self-referential awareness common to this style of cinema (not to mention the references to other sources of culture, including a shot of a movie theater playing Francois Truffaut's "Jules and Jim," another exponent of the French New Wave). Viewers raised on Hollywood movies who have not had much exposure to this style of filmmaking will find "My Life to Live" difficult and, to an extent, somewhat unsatisfying, only because it does not conform to American narrative or cinematic conventions. It is both formally groundbreaking in its visual style and unique in its narrative structure.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By jlaidley on January 13, 2003
Format: DVD
I give this DVD FOUR stars only because the transfer could have been better. With older films, especially foreign ones, the time and cost of providing a great transfer is too much unfortunately.
This an amazing and powerful film that should be owned if you are a fan of Godard or of the French New Wave. For those who have not seen it and are looking for advice, I say: be cautious. This film is not for everyone, especially if you gravitate toward mainstream films. Don't expect Julia Roberts and Richard Gere.
The French New Wave era brought out a new kind of filmmaking. The films abandoned and sometimes appropriated traditional methods of narrative and formal esthetics, and used this technique as a critique of sorts. Vivre sa vie is no exception. Jean-Luc Godard made a film that requires something more from the viewer than just their attention span. The fairly simple plot of Vivre sa vie is expanded and turned around by various formal aspects of filmmaking made famous by French New Wave directors. Jump cuts, long takes, deep focus and slow pans are cornerstones of The French New Wave, but my interest lays with Vivre sa vie functions as a text, rather than a traditional narrative. By text, I mean that the film has a greater social theme and works more as an essay rather than a film¡Xsomething needed to be read.
Simply put, Vivre sa vie tells a story of a woman that leaves her husband and son, wants to get into the movies, ends up becoming a prostitute, falls in love, then wants to get out of the business. But there is so much more to the film and what is needed is your participation. Participation here, involves much more than a warm body and open eyes.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Doug Anderson VINE VOICE on December 22, 2003
Format: DVD
This is Godard's most austere film. Its also one of his best. Anna Karina is in every shot and you never get tired of looking into those sad, beautiful, hopeful eyes. The most heartwrenching part of the story is that no matter how far she descends into the grim world of prostitution she remains somehow innocent and to be truthful the world of prostitution actually doesn't look all that grim(her clients are polite, they always pay, there are no drugs, or beatings). She survives not by becoming detached but by remaining inquisitive and continuing to find things that interest her. She loves the film Passion of Joan of Arc, and she loves the Poe story her boyfriend reads, and she enjoys the company of anyone with fresh ideas or a different perspective. She might be a prostitute but she never stops being a human being first and she never stops seeing men as individuals and so she never stops liking them, even when they might see her and treat her merely as a type. Though she can sense the tragedy in someone elses life like Joan of Arcs she does not view herself as being tragic. She might be a prostitute but she does not seem ashamed of this, but rather just sees it as a job. You could almost say she is amused by her own situation. Its her intense awareness of life and her own freedom to live as she chooses and think and feel what she wants to that make her such a fascinating creature. In fact its the moment after she has her first client that she seems to really become fully aware of herself as a truly free creature. Karina's sense of freedom contrasts in an interesting way with her occupation and the films structure which sets a decidedly deterministic, even fatalistic, tone and pace.Read more ›
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