best film:   Pierrot le Fou is the second-best Godard film and lands safely in the top 100 of all-time. Watching Anna Karina spar with Jean-Paul Belmondo in amidst the backdrop of Godard’s crazy, avant-garde world is such a privilege. A Woman is a Woman is probably next- but Godard and Karina collaborated for five (5) films that are must-see or better- and she also had tiny spot in Agnes Varda’s Cleo from 5 to 7 as well.

 

Karina with the scissors, in red, in front of the Picassos as an immaculate cinematic painting from Pierrot le Fou

 

best performance:   Vivre Sa Vie. Karina’s stare, unsmiling ironic takes in Pierrot, Band of Outsiders and A Woman is a Woman are all proof of her talent- but Vivre Sa Vie shows the full range of emotions and this is really a solo showcase in front of the camera (unlike the others). This is where Karina, most centrally, is the gaze object and fundamental figure for Godard. Karina is the canvas here for an odd mixture of an examination of the human condition and a pop art experimentation. The boxier screen lets Godard focus solely on his muse in these splendid, confining, claustrophobic close-ups. This is an examination of her character, Nana. Nana is a woman who leaves her family, tries to become an actress, and instead turns into a prostitute with a tragic, inevitable end. The other characters in the film are often facing away from the camera, or you hear their dialogue off screen as Godard’s frame focuses on Karina’s Nana.

 

Karina in Vivre Sa Vie– this role must have been the envy of every other New Wave actress.

 

stylistic innovations/traits:    Karina was Godard’s main muse even if he amassed a number of brilliant films without her (mainly Breathless, Contempt and Weekend). Their work together from 1961-1966 has been studied for decades already and will continue to leave their mark as an important collaboration as the history of cinema is discussed for decades to come. Karina is proof that one does not need decades of staying power to make an impact. Karina made nine (9) archiveable films in total- seven (7) with Godard. Those seven include five years where Karina gives one of the best films of the year (1961, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1966). What an impressive cluster of artistically ambitious work.  The Nun with Jacques Rivette is a nice resume-builder for Karina as well. It proves she is more than just a muse for Godard—she has very minor role in Varda’s Cleo, but her other work in the archives is all with Godard prior to The Nun where she is in just about every scene and is very good throughout as the tortured Joan of Arc-like soul.

 

Godard taps Anna Karina on the shoulder to be his Bogart—she is sublime, brooding, in all her whiskey drinking, gun twirling glory.   She is rocking her trademark heavy blue eye shadow and a colorful sweater. Godard is smart to cast Karina again (sadly this would be their last feature together)- she is hypnotic- many of the best sequences are simply her in close-up

 

directors worked with:  Godard (7)- clearly one of the most significant auteur/muse partnerships and collaborations in the history of cinema. One film with Rivette and one (in a tiny role) with Varda.

 

The Danish actor in Band of Outsiders– Godard is still just mesmerized by the presence of Karina- as he should be. In the English class scene, Godard pairs the reading of Romeo and Juliet to close-ups of Karina with those wide eyes and long eyelashes.

 

top ten performances:

  1. Vivre Sa Vie
  2. Pierrot le Fou
  3. A Woman is a Woman
  4. Made in U.S.A.
  5. Band of Outsiders
  6. The Nun
  7. Alphaville
  8. Le Petit Soldat
  9. Cleo from 5 to 7

 

Because of the pushback of Le Petit Soldat,  A Woman is A Woman (here) becomes the first archiveable debut for Anna Karina- Godard’s muse and wife. She is transcendent here. She is dressed in either red or yellow primary colors, has the blue eyeshadow, she sings, she winks at the camera- she is a narcotic. 

 

archiveable films

1961- A Woman is a Woman
1962- Cleo from 5 to 7
1962- Vivre Sa Vie
1963- Le Petit Soldat
1964- Band of Outsiders
1965- Alphaville
1965- Pierrot le Fou
1966- The Nun
1966- Made in U.S.A.