Jean-Luc Godard Tom Milne - Essay

Tom Milne

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

I consider Vivre sa Vie [My Life to Live] to be not only Godard's most mature and most personal film, but also something of a masterpiece. The full range of the cinematic vocabulary which he spread out in his earlier films with the vivid and random excitement of a child learning to talk is here applied with a rigorous economy and exactness which show his complete and imaginative mastery of the medium, together with a new element of repose….

[Like A Bout de Souffle, Vivre sa Vie has a thriller-novelette basis.] But where it is possible to appreciate A Bout de Souffle unexactingly on a "B" film plane, as an excitingly told tale, I doubt whether anyone could, or would, sit through Vivre sa Vie on this level. Although the value and originality of A Bout de Souffle lies in its thick texture and its flashes below the surface, its real meat is the exterior story of a young man determined to fulfil the exhortation "live dangerously to the end." In Vivre sa Vie, on the other hand, this exterior is simply a shell to be peeled away; and the shell is necessary only in so far as it encloses what (for want of a better word) one might call the soul.

Hence the Brechtian structure of the film, which is divided into twelve distinct chapters, each preceded by a title summarising the characters and main action to follow. By this means attention is drawn away from the dramatic progress of Nana's story, and concentrated on her reaction to each event as it occurs. Godard has thus abandoned the fast and furious pace which is an integral feature of A Bout de Souffle and the "B" feature genre (and, incidentally, of Une Femme est une Femme), and in Vivre sa Vie the camera, often completely static, is allowed all the time it wants to capture a brief, revelatory moment; in fact, the camera is used, precisely and exactly, to isolate and examine each of these moments as it occurs….

The motif of the film is stated in the first chapter, in Paul's story of the...

(The entire section is 841 words.)