Vivre Sa Vie is the tragic tale of a young woman whose aspirations to become an actress turn her to a life of prostitution.
Nana (Anna Karina) is a stunning Parisian in her early twenties. She decides that she is going to leave her husband to become a famous actress. We follow Nana through twelve chapters of her life as her dreams of acting slowly shift into making money as a prostitute.
Vivre Sa Vie (which translates to “My Life to Live”) is one of only two Jean-Luc Godard films I believe I’ve seen, the first being Breathless. As a fan of French New Wave, Breathless was pretty much required viewing, but I was not very taken with it as a film outside of its obvious importance in cinematic history. Vivre Sa Vie struck an entirely different chord with me and has made me want to delve further into Godard’s library.
The use of twelve chapters in Vivre Sa Vie have a distinct feeling and make it easy to experience Nana’s descent with small sections of her life on display. Some of the chapters are simple, like the fourth, which is basically just Nana in a police station explaining an incident with a woman who accused Nana of stealing money from her. Each successive division of the film shows Nana sliding further into the life as a prostitute and we hope dearly for her to make it out of this life. The chapters almost make Vivre Sa Vie feel like a novel in that we are somewhat removed from the action as its happening but we also are fully involved in Nana’s life. She is not a heroine, but she is a tragic figure.
While Vivre Sa Vie is probably not the first film I would point to for seekers of French New Wave cinema, I found it immensely powerful and enjoyable to watch. Godard has redeemed himself in my limited view of his talents and I look forward to seeing more of his work now. Vivre Sa Vie is a film that tells a sad tale in a heart-wrenching way and it’s a film I would easily recommend for people wanting to expand their viewing into French cinema.
I give it 5 fans of Mia Wallace from Pulp Fiction take note out of 5.