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Vivre sa Vie: Godard Goes Off

The "Everything is permissible" moment

Anna Karina exhales.
Film Forum/Janus Films
Anna Karina exhales.

A milestone "Everything is permissible" moment in narrative film, Godard's fourth feature is a rocket from Pandora's Box. It's sectioned into 12 "tableaux," each chapter opening with an intertitle describing its contents. The framing is carefully indiscriminate; faces are backlit into murk; café clatter swallows conversation. The camera rarely cues on in-scene action, instead turning weird patterns or unmooring from the story at the whim of private authorial logic. Star Anna Karina was in the brutal early rounds of marriage to her director, who was never more doting and egghead-condescending than in this showpiece. She's Nana, a northern provincial in Paris who aspires to maybe become a film actress (like Anna Karina!), but settles on making a quick franc horizontally. The suburban streets and jukebox idylls are as banal as her daydreams, though she touches loftier things—a teary commiseration with Dreyer's Joan of Arc, a chance dialogue with philosopher Brice Parain. The purpose of this one-woman show is suggested by a child's description of essence: "Take away the outside, the inside is left. Take away the inside, and you see a soul." Toward this, girl-for-rent Nana is probed from every side: interrogated by the camera, her jilted beau, the police, her pimp, and the prose of Poe (all of them, really, Godard).

 
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