Vivre sa vie (1962)

Bloody hell, another Godard film I liked. Although, having said that, it wasn’t one that I warmed to terribly quickly, but it does build up a sort of cumulative power I did have to admire. We’re obviously in early Godard territory here, this having been only his fourth feature (third released, cos Le petit soldat was outlawed for years by French censors), and I was struck by how comparatively straight he plays it… which I say in full acknowledgement of the fact that, yes, the film starts with a fairly protracted conversation (one of several in the film) between two people filmed from behind so that you only see their faces (when you see them at all) in reflection. It’s not the only distancing technique Godard employs in the film, but at the same time it doesn’t feel as “fuck you” as this sort of thing often does in his films I’ve seen; on the whole Vivre sa vie is a lot less abrasive. The film is about a woman played by Anna Karina, the then-Mme Godard, in a low-paying dead-end job, turfed out of her home, and gradually sliding into prostitution to get by; it’s a compact and often elliptical tale, and the film doesn’t waste a lot of time in telling it. There’s a similar sort of existential cool here to Breathless but without that film’s lightness, but also with a certain kind of emotional resonance that I don’t normally get from Godard. It might be ruthless in its lack of sentiment, but it’s not without emotion in spite of that. In the end it’s still a film that I like more than actually love, I can’t quite go that far with it, but even so that puts it well ahead of most of the other Godard films I’ve seen, and unlike most of them I can imagine this repaying repeat viewings. Not sorry that I actually bought this one on DVD.


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