My Life to Live | Movie review
Even more than Patricia in Breathless or Camille in Contempt, Nana (Karina) is the richest female character in ’60s Godard—an innocent cast adrift in a corrupting world. She works as a prostitute but dreams of making it in movies, watching longingly (and with a hint of irony) as Renee Falconetti steels herself for martyrdom in Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc. Like Sasha Grey’s high-class call girl in Steven Soderbergh’s upcoming homage The Girlfriend Experience, she’s far too willing to believe promises of stardom.
My Life to Live is at once a rush of pure movie pleasure and a deconstruction of movieness; as he indicates in the classic opening credits sequence—which shows Karina in several distinct profiles—Godard aims to see Nana from every possible angle. Fittingly, the movie unfolds in a mixture of the director’s fantastic and didactic modes. One minute, Nana witnesses a gangland shooting outside a café; in another, a philosopher lectures her on the nature of love. The lushness of Raoul Coutard’s black-and-white cinematography is offset by unpredictable lighting and dollies. The soundtrack is no less alienating, with dialogue disrupted by the clackety-clack of a police typewriter or the sudden tuning in and out of Michel Legrand’s mournful score. Like Nana, My Life to Live is a movie poised on the edge.