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A GEM OF THE FRENCH NEW WAVE,
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This review is from: Vivre sa Vie (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
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. I find watching his work really can open up one's mind, inspire creativity, and help one think outside the box. So many films today seem very packaged and formulaic, so Godard for me is particularly refreshing. Only 83 minutes long, this film seems to have more in it than some major epics.
The opening of the film looks a bit grainy, perhaps because of the low light exposure, and I wondered if the blu-ray made an appreciable difference in definition, but as the film continued I saw that the blu-ray does add to the clarity and was worth getting.
The story itself is tragic, so be prepared for that, even if there are some wonderful lighter moments. One's heart breaks for all the Nana's who have met the same fate, but even so, Nana takes full responsibility for her actions. Godard asserts that she was able to "keep her soul", but I doubt this is often true in real life. In any case, it is refreshing to see a film from a time when one could have a 10-minute philosophical discussion on film, which I think would not really even be possible in France today. Don't expect to be titillated though, and I greatly admire Godard for this, especially with the subject matter. 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. There are a few nudes in one scene, but each is more like a brief "still life". As a result, the sordidness of the "profession" becomes very real and believable, and for me it is proof that in film too, less is more.
There are a few nice extras, such as the interviews with Karina, and film prof Jean Narboni. And there is an interesting documentary about prostitution in Paris at that time, including an interview with the author of the work upon which the film is based. I would have liked to have an interview with Godard from the period, but it is not on this disc. The film however is itself very telling about Godard and his feelings about filming Karina, his wife at that time; feelings he expresses in a voice-over reading of the "Oval Portrait" by Poe, a story of an artist and his muse. "Vivre Sa Vie" is very much such a story.