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This film explores a Parisian woman's descent into prostitution. The movie is comprised of a series of 12 "tableaux"-- scenes which are basically unconnected episodes, each presented with a worded introduction. Written by
Alan Katz <email@example.com>
Godard has a great piece of Parisian character-fiction
(minor spoilers ahead)
I've started to get a little more used to Godard, and now by My Life to Live I know I can expect anything from him, though it's sometimes a style that he presents frankly, stylishly, or in an experimentally real approach. Along with his masterful cinematographer Raoul Coutard, the mis en scene he creates in each episode is equally satisfying. And there is a terrific balance in how the camera may just stay for minutes at a time on a character before moving and how the camera may show off (impressively) for the viewer.
For example, there's a moment when Nana (played by Godard's wife Anna Karina) is a café, and gun shots are heard outside, the camera seems to cut - or move - to the sounds and beats of shots being fired, tracking like this all the way across the bar to the window. It was stunning to see that being done, not just for the sake of the scene's twist to intensity, but it perfectly skims the line of stage-ness and reality- if you were positioned in that café, how would you see things as your head turns to look to the street? Godard raises and answers some film-making questions that pay off in the best new-wave type fashion. His dialog, too, is fascinating, and a philosophical discussion between two characters gives me an indication as to what might have inspired Richard Linklater, perhaps.
Then there's Anna Karina as Nana, a woman who leaves her husband and child (you have to listen sharp to note when the child's mentioned) and gets kicked out of her home by the concierge. She has a job in a record store, but doesn't keep it, wanders the streets, sees a movie (very emotionally touching scene), and tries to get an acting job, or some money together. Then she gets drawn into, without an ounce of remorse, the prostitution ring-around, learning that there isn't nearly as much emphasis on lawbreaking in the business in Paris as there is with medical concerns. Karina, with a face, eyes, hair, and body that has a sweet level of (distant) attraction, plays Nana in a wonderful way- we get inklings that she can be happy (dancing to music in a pool-hall is the highlight), though she's at best when she hides it under her demeanor. She smokes, she has a lot of sex, she has talks that sometimes don't go anywhere, but is the viewer ever let in to who she really is or what her motives are day to day? This is a credit to her, as well as Godard, in creating this memorable figure in the early 60's New-wave of French cinema.
Credit should also be given to Michael Legrand's theme (though repetitive, has a sort of purpose for many scenes).
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