Vivre Sa Vie (Jean-Luc Godard / France, 1962):

La putain sacrée and how to photograph her, a twelve-part treatment. Start from the back and work inwards, says Jean-Luc Godard, Nana at the bistro counter is a Magritte obfuscation until a reflection in the background mirror reveals Anna Karina’s pensive visage. "Take away the outside and the inside is left, take away the inside and you see the soul," a child’s rewording of Montaigne. The impoverished aspiring starlet and her crises, breaking up with her husband and dodging her concierge, work at the record store is so slow that the camera pans past her and gazes out the window at passersby. Jukeboxes and pinball machines are the recurring Parisian pillars, gunfire in the street literally shoots frames out of the film (Eisenstein’s October). "Escape is a pipe dream," so it goes with Godard’s Cabiria, she strolls down the boulevard and allows herself to be picked up and suddenly she’s being rented to lout after lout, gripped by the pimp’s (Sady Rebbot) avalanche of statistics. Modernist identity and its assorted transactions, at once severe and incandescent, rigorously distanced yet close enough to touch the lenses. In the labyrinth of motel doors, the courtesan savors a cigarette between clients; at the billiard hall, she defiantly shimmies and bops before her diffident new beau (Peter Kassovitz) in one of the cinema’s most captivating musical sequences. Smudging the lines between onscreen performance and documentary essence, Karina drifts from yearning shopgirl to the doomed muse in Poe’s "The Oval Portrait," only to end crumpled on the pavement. ("This is our story," goes the recognizably raspy murmur on the soundtrack.) La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc is screened at the Cinémathèque the way Langlois intended, Falconetti on the blanched screen is judged by men and drained by the camera, the heroine can relate. Porthos’ death by thought, an Ophulsian position ("le bonheur n’est pas gai"), the poet’s distrust of language. Godard would carry on the investigation (2 or 3 Things I Know About Her, Every Man for Himself), but never again with such emotional nakedness. Cinematography by Raoul Coutard. With André S. Labarthe, Guylaine Schlumberger, and Brice Parain. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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