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on April 21, 2010
My Life to Live is a highly stylized and extraordinarily unformulaic adaptation of a simple premise: a young woman, seeking the freedom and excitement of, what Federico Fellini calls La Dolce Vita, leaves her family to pursue an acting career, only to turn to a life of prostitution. From the opening sequence showing a detached, seemingly clinical exhibition of Anna Karina's face and profile, followed by an uneasy dialogue between Nana (Karina) and Paul (Andre-S. Labarthe) filmed at an angle showing the backs of their heads, we are introduced to the singular, iconoclastic vision that is Jean-Luc Godard. Stripped of expression and sentimentality, Godard, nevertheless, succeeds in creating a film that is visually stunning and full of pathos. We are drawn to Anna, not because of her seductive persona or compassionate actions, but because she is humanity, lost and desperate, incapable of comprehending her misery nor articulating her pain (Note the parallel character of Antonio Ricci in Vittorio de Sica's The Bicycle Thief.

Godard's revolutionary camerawork transcends nouvelle vague novelty: it serves as a cinematic extension of Nana's soul. The awkward angles and long panning shots during Nana and Paul's conversations reveals the underlying tension and emotional distance between them. Deeply affected (understandably) by Maria Falconetti's performance in Carl Theodor Dreyer's The Passion of Joan of Arc, Nana's conversation proceeds in silent film intertitles - reflecting her own suffering and innate desire to achieve greatness and escape the banality of her sordid life. The seamless camerawork following Nana as she dances uninhibitedly around the billiard room feels intoxicating, almost mesmerizing - a fleeting glimpse of the few brief moments of pure joy she has ever known. My Life to Live is a truly remarkable film: a synthesis of artistic vision and moral tale, suffused with haunting melody, the ballad of a contemporary tragedy.
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on August 8, 2012
I cannot imagine anyone seeing this movie and ever being able to forget it. The director examines a life (Nana) and offers 12 discrete episodes that jump in time. Taken together, they paint Nana's gradual descent into prostitution...when she runs out of money and loses her dream of becoming an actress.

The movie begins with the camera focused on the back of the woman's head, with her face (only) reflected in the mirror. She talks to the mirror, not to her boyfriend beside her, about the pain of the breakup. Another episode involves her being in the audience at a movie theater showing another movie on screen: Carl Dreyer's "The Passion of Joan of Arc". In this episode, Nana silently weeps. (Not coincidentally, Joan of Arc was punished by men for trying to act as one). Then there is the episode where Nana casually allows a man to make love to her for money. This is the first instance she trades sex for money. It is pertinent she resists the man's desperate efforts to kiss her on the mouth. Soon afterwards, there is a scene where a man embraces her in a hotel room while she looks away, all the while emotionally distant - smoking her cigarette.

A very powerful episode is one where she dances around a pool table listening to jukebox music - it's a very famous part of the movie. This will be the first...and only time that we glimpse a smile on Nana's face.(Of course, that dance reminds one of her dance in Godard's film "Band of Outsiders"). The tragedy of Nana's life is that bad luck has taken away all her potential for happiness. Ultimately, "Vivre Sa Vie" proceeds towards the inevitable climax when her pimp tries to sell her off to another pimp, as simple chattel.

Three matters stick most in my mind about the film. First, the story of prostitution is displayed on the screen without any touch of sentiment or fun. There is no "Pretty Woman" nonsense here. Second, Anna Karina is a radiant actress...and we understand immediately how quickly the director must have fallen in love with her. (They were married at the time of the filming). Third, was the ending in which the camera itself looks down at the sidewalk, almost ashamed of the way this human life is being treated.

It is a masterpiece of neorealism, a film that is enhanced by the understated acting of the lead actress.
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on June 1, 2016
In the character of Nana Anna Karina explores Godard's thoughts and feelings about art, and how open-ended this precious gift is, in terms of articulation, whether through acting (Anna Karina), writing as Poe does, or Plato, or Hegel or Nietzsche. Godard does not define, or create a film as a lesson on life's hazards, filled moral prescriptions , antidotes, hand-me-down phrases that only bring one closer to life, to Nature that is mortal and very destructive. (Witness te close of the film.)

Nietzsche says that art is not an imitation of nature at all, but is rather a metaphysical supplement, raised along side Nature only to overcome Nature. I agree. And Godard seems to be on this wavelength, but would never reveal it. Closeness to the world in art is not art for Godard. Distancing, almost barricading the self from the world in order to come towards it with assurance and strength represents the artistic nature overagainst the non-artistic mundane, so-called real world.

Nana tries to transcend a Paris that is unkind to her, manipulative, and very dangerous. She does in a way overcome, retreat from the closeness to the world as a prostitute. But this life is too insistent on ignorance, irrationality, sickness, and death to be liberating. Nana hasn't the strength to be the actress she desires to be, could be. She is too close to oblivion, the way art can be threatened by oblivion, as Godard shows as he explores the relation between being driven by matter, things, people and their bad faith, and driving against the forces that threaten to obliterate the mind and its memories.

Beautifully acted, Vivre Sa Vie is a major benchmark in the history of cinema..indeed art.
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on January 14, 2012
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.
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on March 8, 2014
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. Rather, these scenes increase the three-dimensionality of Nana as a character: not very intelligent and with negligible education, an easy woman since long before the film begins, but feeling strongly that there must be more out there.

The believability of Nana as a character is increased all the more by Anna Karina's masterful performance. When coming to Godard's films, after the filmmaker has taken a beating from some circles, one might think that Karina was simply a beauty with no especial talent that enchanted the director due to her looks and foreign origin. Nope, the Danish actress here presents a completely believable Parisian airhead who is so easily moved by sentimental art.

Criterion has filled this DVD with some great supplementary features. The audio commentary track is by the delightfully Australian-accented film scholar Adrian Martin, and it draws one's attention to all kind of details that one might have never quite noticed. The major featurette is a video interview with the film scholar Jean Narboni that, again, expands one's appreciation of the film immensely. There is also a television interview from 1962 with Anna Karina and excerpts from a 1961 French television exposé on prostitution.
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on January 26, 2016
You know what? I studied at film school at the college and graduate school and want to make sure that all the movies metioned in the text books, I really don't dig them and most of all I never watch them again and again. Unless I have to draw storyboard or someting for my own film.
This movie was not (Maybe a few times but not often) mentioned in the text books that often.
From the moment when I saw this movie for the first time, I felt in love with this movie.
It was such a sad movie because of the ending. I just couldn't erase the image of the ending shot.
I never thought Anna Karina is beautiful till I saw a single shot from the facebook when she is calculating her height with her palm. That single shot made me want to buy the dvd.
Before that even though I liked this movie, I never wanted to own this in dvd.
I finally bought this dvd and saw it again last night.
Anna Karina's eyebrow, to be honest, kind of disturbed me in some reason. It looked fake. But who cares. She is just an actress. And many actresses have plastic surgery from a long time ago. What am a saying. boo.
Anyway, her style was more like imitational.
This movie is all about Anna and Anna only.
If I don't like her, then there's no meaning to watch this movie.
Oh, there is other reason to watch this movie too.
This movie has it's own way of framing and that was intersting to watch too.
It was Jean-Luc Godard's movie after all.
It was kind of sad that the aspect ratio was 4:3. And was also mono.
I will watch this movie again soon.
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on May 20, 2013
Whenever I'm asked what my favorite Godard film is, I always receive funny looks when I tell them Vivre Sa Vie. I know it's not as energetic as his earlier films like Breathless and Band Of Outsiders, but it is one of the only truly touching films Godard ever made. Watching Vivre Sa Vie is like a cinematic awakening. This film has a lot of heart. Nothing about the soul of the film is staged in any way, the soul of the film is defined by its own constantly evolving personality which makes the emotional toll of watching Vivre Sa Vie wholly organic and very real. Its as if we are watching a film being born out of an idea, we watch the film have fun with its new found life, and we watch how it all ends. A clever metaphor for the life creative people give to inanimate objects, and for the passion that is ultimately lost on them. Godard never tries to force this one on you. Godard has split the film into twelve different tableaux in order to tell his story, a device that has been borrowed and used time and time again. 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. Karina is astonishingly good in Vivre Sa Vie. Without a doubt the finest film Godard and Karina ever worked on together.

Rather than go over the entire film and all of the ideas and statements Godard makes with it, which would take forever, I'll simply talk about one scene in particular that has since been branded into my heart.

It takes place in a movie theater. Anna Karina is watching Carl Theodor Dreyer's silent masterpiece The Passion Of Joan Of Arc, and begins to weep. We watch as she connects deeply with a film, and we in turn are affected by it as we are reminded of how moving a great film can really be. The entire sequence is breathtaking. One of the most touching things Godard ever filmed. This isn't to say that Godard is not a heartfelt filmmaker, there are personal moments in most of Godard's films, but sometimes he strives more of an artist than a human filmmaker. Here, in Vivre Sa Vie, the soul of the filmmaker can be found in all of its compounding sentimentality.

This scene means so much to me because never has the act of investing yourself emotionally in a film been explored to such a startling result. Anna Karina watches the film in tears, and she looks incredibly wondrous and innocent. Watching films can be a beautiful experience. Vivre Sa Vie demonstrates that wonderfully.
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on March 8, 2014
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. Rather, these scenes increase the three-dimensionality of Nana as a character: not very intelligent and with negligible education, an easy woman since long before the film begins, but feeling strongly that there must be more out there.

The believability of Nana as a character is increased all the more by Anna Karina's masterful performance. When coming to Godard's films, after the filmmaker has taken a beating from some circles, one might think that Karina was simply a beauty with no especial talent that enchanted the director due to her looks and foreign origin. Nope, the Danish actress here presents a completely believable Parisian airhead who is so easily moved by sentimental art.

Criterion has filled this DVD with some great supplementary features. The audio commentary track is by the delightfully Australian-accented film scholar Adrian Martin, and it draws one's attention to all kind of details that one might have never quite noticed. The major featurette is a video interview with the film scholar Jean Narboni that, again, expands one's appreciation of the film immensely. There is also a television interview from 1962 with Anna Karina and excerpts from a 1961 French television exposé on prostitution.
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on November 13, 2012
This is probably one of the best movies I've seen in over 20 years. Anna Karina is absolutely gorgeous and amazing as a woman just trying to stay alive, to live her own life. She is so breathtakeingly beautiful, she could be Angelina Jolie's mother. Most definately one of Godard's best works. The ending blew me away!
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on February 3, 2013
The tragic story of a beautiful young French woman who works in a record store near the Arch of Triumph but as in the case of many jobs in Paris-France the job pays next to nothing and she is forced into prostitution. Many cases were like that in Paris at the time. This movie is not really fictional
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