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Vivre sa Vie (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Vivre sa vie was a turning point for Jean-Luc Godard and remains one of his most dynamic films, combining brilliant visual design with a tragic character study. The lovely Anna Karina, Godard’s greatest muse, plays Nana, a young Parisian who aspires to be an actress but instead ends up a prostitute; her downward spiral is depicted in a series of discrete tableaux of daydreams and dances. Featuring some of Karina and Godard’s most iconic moments—from her movie theater vigil with The Passion of Joan of Arc to her seductive pool-hall strut—Vivre sa vie is a landmark of the French New Wave that still surprises at every turn.


Jean-Luc Godard and the French New Wave were at the height of their power and creativity when Godard released Vivre Sa Vie (Living Her Life) in 1962. And watching it again, years later, instantly transports one to the era where an offhand remark, a lazy circle of cigarette smoke, a sidelong glance, a disaffected "I don't care about you" could all communicate deep, conflicted longing, alienation, postwar malaise, and infinite possibility. In fact, watching Vivre Sa Vie, starring Godard's lovely muse, Anna Karina, is at once both enervating--and exhilarating. The film is subtitled Film en Douze Tableaux, and the story shows Karina as Nana in 12 different short films, snapshots of her lonely, seemingly aimless life--in scenes that stay with the viewer for days afterward. In the very first tableau, Nana and a former lover, Paul (André S. Labarthe), are having a sad, disjointed conversation in a café--are they breaking up? Getting back together? The pain and power of the scene lies in its ambiguousness. And Godard and his brilliant cinematographer, Raoul Coutard, shoot this initial scene, of the most intimate conversation between two lovers, entirely from behind them. The sad, longing remarks, barbs, halfhearted entreaties--they are all communicated while the viewer looks just at the back of Karina's sleek black bob and Labarthe's scruffy hair. Only near the end of that scene, as the viewer is practically craning forward to connect to the characters, do we get a glimpse of half of a cheek, one eyebrow. And from this moment, Godard and the cast have the viewer enthralled. In a later tableau, we watch long, uninterrupted scenes of The Passion of Joan of Arc--in itself a treat--and the supposedly disaffected heroine Nana weeping rivers of tears, silently, in the theater. There are many layers to this lovely young woman, and each of the 12 snapshots of her life reveals more. Nana's life becomes a tragedy, as she descends into prostitution--yet along the way, her luminescence is revealed in small ways. In one scene, she recalls a writing exercise from when she was a child. "Birds are creatures with an outside, and an inside," she recites. "When you remove the outside, you see the inside. When you remove the inside, you see the soul." The shattering beauty of Vivre Sa Vie is that Godard and Karina allow us to see the outside, then the inside, and then finally, the soul. The Criterion Collection edition offers true cinema riches, especially in an interview with Karina from 1962, several modern commentaries putting Godard and the film in its historical context, reportage from early-'60s France on the dire situation of prostitutes at the time, a booklet of film criticism, and much more. --A.T. Hurley

Special Features

  • New, restored high-definition digital transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
  • Audio commentary featuring film scholar Adrian Martin
  • Video interview with film scholar Jean Narboni, conducted by historian Noël Simsolo
  • Television interview from 1962 with actress Anna Karina
  • Excerpts from a 1961 French television exposé on prostitution
  • Illustrated essay on La prostitution, the book that served as inspiration for the film
  • Stills gallery
  • Director Jean-Luc Godard’s original theatrical trailer
  • New and improved English subtitle translation
  • A booklet featuring an essay by critic Michael Atkinson, interviews with Godard, a reprint by critic Jean Collet on the film’s soundtrack, and Godard’s original scenario

  • Product Details

    • Actors: Anna Karina, Saddy Rebbot, Gilles Quéant, Jean Ferrat, André S. Labarthe
    • Directors: Jean-Luc Godard
    • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Black & White, Full Screen, NTSC, Special Edition, Subtitled
    • Language: French
    • Subtitles: English
    • Region: Region A/1 (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
    • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
    • Number of discs: 1
    • Rated: Unrated
    • Studio: Criterion
    • DVD Release Date: April 20, 2010
    • Run Time: 85 minutes
    • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
    • ASIN: B0035ECI0I
    • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #34,961 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
    • Learn more about "Vivre sa Vie (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]" on IMDb

    Customer Reviews

    4.9 out of 5 stars
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    I am a huge Jean-Luc Godard fan, and, of his films, "Vivre Sa Vie" (My Life To Live) is my favorite.
    Ryan Nijakowski
    Today everything would unfortunately have to be very graphic, but Nana never is shown in more than the beginning stages of undress or finishing dressing.
    The most important thing about Vivre Sa Vie is that Anna Karina's best performance can be found here as a prostitute in 1960s France.
    Mad Zack

    Most Helpful Customer Reviews

    6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Robert on January 14, 2012
    Verified Purchase
    A fan of Godard's work, I had seen excerpts and the trailer on YouTube, which finally impelled me to buy this Blu-Ray disc. I love this film on many levels.

    Primarily, I wanted to see the Paris of 1962 again, the Paris of my first visit as a child, to smell the Gitanes and Gauloises, to see the people, the cafés, the streets; the true Paris before it became an imitation of itself. I still love Paris, and am conscious of some of the less positive changes, but choose to ignore them (as much as possible). I mention this because Paris is very much a character in the film and is the page upon which the story has been written. People who knew Paris in earlier years will especially appreciate it. There is even a great shot of people standing in line for Truffaut's "Jules et Jim". Shots like that give it somewhat a documentary feel, of being there in the present; and also it is somewhat of a time capsule of life in that time and place.

    Secondly, I of course love Anna Karina who is incredibly beautiful and has such a lovely inner quality, plus her Danish accent drives French guys like me crazy (lol). But when you see the filmed interview that comes with the disc, you will see how different she is in "real life" and appreciate even more her work as an actress, even if the character of Nana was a co-creation with Godard. I wanted to see her in this film also because she was not yet really a big star, and I find there is less self-awareness in performance in the early part of a career, which is more interesting to watch.

    Thirdly, I love the way Godard explores new ways of telling a story on film. This was the type of film-making that inspired me in film school, and there are so many lessons one can learn from him.
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    VIVRE SA VIE was Jean-Luc Godard's fourth feature film. The protagonist Nana (Anna Karina) is a young Parisian woman who is not especially bright, but full of life and endowed with great beauty. Unable to make ends meet by working at a record shop, and unable to break into films as she dreams, she starts to work as a prostitute. Postwar French law permitted prostitution, with certain rules and regulations that the film explains in a documentary-like segment. Nana, who yearns to live her life according to her own desires, initially thinks that this new profession has set her free from cares. In fact, Nana's liberation from penury through prostitution only subjects her to new constraints imposed by her pimp and clientele. The film, divided into twelve tableaux with fade-to-black transitions that quicken as it goes on (which one commentator compares to breathing faster and faster) brings us to one of the most shocking endings I have ever seen.

    This is a superlative film. Clocking in at 85 minutes, it lasts exactly as long as its story demands, with not a single moment that feels superfluous. Everything fits together, perfectly even things that ought to seem extraneous, the overindulgence of the auteur. Early in the film Nana goes to see Carl Dreyer's 1928 silent film "La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc", and this is not a mere gratuitous tribute to earlier cinema as is common in French New Wave films. Nana speaks with an elderly philosopher in a café, who is in fact the real-life philosopher Brice Parain whose dialogue here consists of his own writings, and yet this is not shallow intellectualism.
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    It was 1962 and Jean-Luc Godard and wife, Anna Karina have worked on two films together "Le petit Soldat" (created in 1960 but released in 1963 due to the film being banned) and the 1961 film "Une femme est une femme" (A Woman is a Woman). By that time, both Godard and Karina's marriage life became a public spectacle especially rumors that their marriage was on the rocks.

    Despite their rocky personal life, Godard's goal was to make Karina a serious actress and in 1962, he began working on his screen adaptation of "Vivre sa vie" (My Life to Love) which utilizes the studies of prostitution from "Où en est la prostitution" by Marcel Sacotte. But Godard would have his most challenging directorial experience at the time when funding for the film was turned down and the budget for the film was 400,000 francs, less that "Breathless" and it would be the first film in which Godard would be co-producer (putting half of his money towards the film) alongside producer Pierre Braunberger.
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