Amid tributes to Anna Karina, who died earlier this month, the word “muse” recurred. As in “the muse of Jean-Luc Godard” or “Karina served as a cinematic muse to Godard”. And in nearly every homage and obituary, you could sense the writer making a valiant effort to acknowledge that Karina was more than just a passive repository of a male auteur’s creativity: that she appeared in films by other renowned directors, starred in a TV musical (Anna) with songs by Serge Gainsbourg, made albums, did theatre, wrote and directed two films, and wrote four novels.
But it is Godard’s attempts to define and contain Karina’s allure that gives his early films much of their appeal. Time and again, the performer transcends her material, giving