Sunday, August 29, 2010

VIVRE SA VIE (Jean-Luc Godard, 1962, France)

The passion of Nina is worth two thousand francs, surrendering her body without giving herself away. Jean-Luc Godard’s pessimistic worldview consumes his anxious heroine, a woman who breaks away from her family in search of freedom but finds only a prison of flesh, her final sentence punctuated by an exclamation point in lead.

Godard begins the film with Nina’s lovely face in close-up, modeled from plastic angles as shadows kiss her skin, the credits superimposed upon the frame as a textual distraction. She is not yet alive, silent, a mannequin, until Godard cuts to the opening scene: Nina talking to a man off-screen, her face hidden from the audience. She is in need of money and we sense her desperation but not the lengths she will go to: she still dreams of acting in films or modeling, a prostitution of illusion, another way of selling her body without penetration. She seems happy, her wide eyes capturing the world, a resilient woman capable of living her own life. Her hopes are caught in negative, like Dreyer’s PASSION she burns without being destroyed. Nina’s first sexual encounter for profit is a sublime disassociation as she refuses to be kissed on the lips, separating the painful act from pleasurable experience.

So Nina’s body becomes just another commodity to be purchased and sold, abused or enjoyed by others, though she convinces herself it is only a means to an end. Owned by Raoul, a pimp who convinced her to stay in Paris, she is sold to another, her humanity literally reduced to a few thousand francs. For Nina, her means is her end, her beauty condemning her to death.

Final Grade: (A)

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