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Vivre sa vie (The Criterion Collection)

4.7 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Twelve vignettes show a young woman's life as a Paris prostitute. Directed by Jean-Luc Godard.

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, Sady Rebbot, André S. Labarthe, Guylaine Schlumberger, Gérard Hoffman
  • Directors: Jean-Luc Godard
  • Writers: Jean-Luc Godard, Marcel Sacotte
  • Producers: Pierre Braunberger
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Full Screen, NTSC, Special Edition, Subtitled
  • Language: French
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: April 20, 2010
  • Run Time: 85 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0035ECHVI
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #71,183 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Vivre sa vie (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
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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Format: DVD
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.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
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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