Life is … Life

Anna Karina, Godard’s Vivre sa vie


Today’s thoughts:

“A plate is a plate. A man is a man. Life is … Life.”

– Nana in Jean-Luc Godard’s Vivre sa vie


“…I don’t think there’s any better way to fight off the chill of winter than a big bowl of carbohydrates swimming in melted butter.”

– David Lebovitz

My sentiments exactly.

Today’s dharma:

Imagine [no, it’s not the John Lennon Imagine]
Gay Buddhist Open Forum, Posted by Albert Kaba
Wed., Dec 31, 2008

Imagine if all the tumult of the body were to quiet down, along with our busy thoughts. Imagine if all things that are perishable grew still. And imagine if that moment were to go on and on, leaving behind all other sights and sounds but this one vision which ravishes and absorbs and fixes the beholder in joy, so that the rest of eternal life were like that moment of illumination which leaves us breathless.

– Saint Augustine


Anna Karina and Vivre sa vie
Among my obsessions lately have been all things French; witness my continual references to David Lebovitz’ blog about food and Paris.
I’ve also been watching a bunch of French films recently.  Is it my imagination, or am I understanding more of the dialogue, since the downloads and DVDs don’t include English subtitles?  Jean-Luc Godard’s Vivre sa vie (1962), which I watched again last night for the third or fourth time, is rapidly becoming one of my favorite movies. 
I was mesmerized by the unusual, voyeuristic camera placement that often photographs conversations showing the backs of people’s heads; by the informal, everyday atmosphere of Paris in the early 60s; and, most of all, by the images of Anna Karina (then married to Godard).  The film, above all, seems to be a meditation on her face in its many expressions and moods.  It’s a many-layered evocation of life, living, choices, and death, through masterful use of sound, silence, symbolism, dialogue, and camera work.“The film was made by sort of a second presence,” Godard said; “the camera is not just a recording device but a looking device, that by its movements makes us aware that it sees her, wonders about her, glances first here and then there, exploring the space she occupies, speculating.” 



Anna Karina as Nana Kleinfrankenheim, Vivre sa vie









The story in brief: a young woman’s loss of income leads her to become a prostitute; she hooks up with a pimp, eventually finds love, and finally, er, suffers a tragic and abrupt end. Can you even imagine an early 60s American film dealing matter-of-factly with prostitution? (Vivre sa vie includes a voice-over, clinical dissection of the facts and daily routine of a prostitute’s life) Yes, I know Shirley MacLaine played a whole series of hookers-with-a-heart-of-gold, but the word was never used. Nor did money change hands. Nor did we ever get a great shot like this:




Some things are slightly less obvious, though: 



Anna Karina as…. 



…Louise Brooks?




Almost a mirror image of….




…actress Ellen Andrée, in Edgar Degas’ L’Absinthe, 1876
(Oil on canvas, 92 × 68 cm), Musée d’Orsay, Paris
This has always been my favorite painting, maybe because of the deep alienation and sadness in the woman’s downcast eyes. She also reminded me of my mother, who had a lot of her own sadness. 


Enough said. You’ll just have to watch the film, or read an excellent meditation on it here, or here.  Oh, and don’t let the conversation about the chicken confuse you.


Nana’s lover tells her about a homework assignment submitted by a little girl to his father the teacher. In this essay, the little girl writes: “The chicken has an inside and an outside. Remove the outside and you find the inside. Remove the inside and you find the soul.”






Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.