Vivre Sa Vie
Jean-Luc Godard's episodic 1962 examination of a woman almost casually turning to prostitution is one of his earliest formalist breakthroughs and arguably his first true masterpiece. Divided into 12 chapters--each introduced by a dash of Michel Legrand music and a titled card--Vivre sa vie (My Life to Live) follows the Parisian Nana (the porcelain skinned, dark-eyed beauty Anna Karina trying to look plain here, which is patently impossible) as she leaves her husband, tries to establish a life for herself, harbors dreams of a being an actress, and settles for a different brand of role playing. Although just as formally irreverent as his Breathless two years earlier, here Godard's roving camera, idiosyncratic framing, and extemporaneous dialog unsentimentally peels the romantic mirth off Paris to look at relationships between men and women more personally and critically. Intimately dispassionate and unambiguously self-referential (Karina and Godard were married at the time), Vivre anticipates both the volatility of Godard's late '60s output and the structural rigor of his '70s break with his version of mainstream cinema.