Neil Young’s Film Lounge – Vivre Sa Vie



aka My Life to Live aka It’s My Life : France 1962 : Jean-Luc GODARD : 83 mins (85 mins?)

Lukewarm existential musings from early-period Godard, draped rather awkwardly around a nonexistent plot about an aspiring actress Nana (Anna Karina) who ends up On The Game. As the film’s twelve brief ‘chapters’ click by, things rapidly go from bad to worse for our penniless heroine – a trajectory indicated early on when we see Nana crying her eyes out at a screening of Dreyer’s Passion of Joan of Arc. Along the way she has some happy moments, but – as an intertitle depressingly points out – even “happiness isn’t much fun”.

Yes, Nana is the latest in that seemingly endless cinematic line of Doomed Whores – not that Godard seems especially interested in prostitution per se. There are some mildly stylised documentary-style sequences, but these aren’t particularly convincing – and we’re also a very long way from bourgeois kinkiness of Bunuel’s much more intricate, accomplished and rewarding Belle de Jour (1967).

Godard’s real achievements are technical: this is above all an experiment in narrative where the director’s control of image (via Raoul Coutard’s monochrome cinematography) and sound (street noise, dialogue, pop songs, Michel LeGrand’s score), and the interplay between the two, are still strikingly innovative and impressive more than four decades on.

3rd September, 2004
(seen same day : Arc, Stockton-on-Tees : public show)

full title : Vivre sa vie – Film en douze tableaux (“To live one’s life – a film in twelve chapters”)

by Neil Young