Vivre sa vie: Film en douze tableaux – Jean-Luc Godard (1962)

Vivre sa vie : film en douze tableaux is a 1962 French film directed by Jean-Luc Godard. The title means “To Live Her Life: A Film in Twelve Scenes”, but in the English-speaking world it was released as My Life to Live (North America) or as It’s My Life (UK).

The film stars Anna Karina, as Nana, a beautiful Parisian in her early twenties who deliberately leaves her husband and her infant son hoping to become an actress. Without money, beyond what she earns as a shopgirl, and unable to enter acting, she elects to earn better money as a prostitiute. Soon she has a pimp, Raoul, who after an unspecified period agrees to sell Nana to another pimp. During the exchange the pimps argue and in a gun battle Nana is killed. Nana’s short life on film is told in 12 brief episodes each preceded by a written resume. Godard introduces other idiosyncrasies to focus the viewer’s attention.

Godard borrowed the aesthetics of the cinéma vérité approach to documentary film-making that was then becoming fashionable. However, this film differed from other films of the French New Wave by being photographed with a heavy Mitchell camera, as opposed to the light weight cameras used for earlier films. The cinematographer was Raoul Coutard, a frequent collaborator of Godard.

While not being one of Godard’s best-known films, Vivre sa Vie enjoys an extremely positive critical reputation. Susan Sontag, author and cultural critic, has described Godard’s achievement in Vivre sa vie as “a perfect film” and “one of the most extraordinary, beautiful, and original works of art that I know of.” According to critic Roger Ebert, “The effect of the film is astonishing. It is clear, astringent, unsentimental, abrupt.”

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