|Anna Karina working in a record shop|
Vivre la vie (1962)
d. Jean-Luc Godard
Criterion Collection #512
It's remarkable that before Vivre la vie popped up on the list of "suggested titles" on the Criterion Collection channel of Hulu Plus, I had never heard of it ONCE. Not read about it in a book, not heard mentioned in passing among friends, not had it recommended by Hulu Plus itself, let alone Amazon.com. How is it possible that Jean-Luc Godard made a movie in 1962 about a RECORD STORE CLERK TURNED PROSTITUTE, and the character was played by Anna Karina, who is fucking gorgeous in it, and nobody thought to mention it to me?
It's not like, I have completely ignored Godard throughout my adult life. Quite the opposite, in college I was subjected to Hail Mary (1965), an incomprehensible film about I have no idea. Not a Criterion Collection title either. Also in college, I watched Alphaville for the first time, sitting in the film library of my university and watching on an 8 inch screen using a video tape. After college/law school, I definitely saw Breathless for the first time, probably on DVD. I've watched Weekend in the course of this Criterion Collection project. It's fair to say that I haven't had much experience with the Godard deep cuts collection, and I suppose you could call Vivre sa vie a "deep cut" because of the sex driven subject matter.
At the same time Vivre sa vie is a very enjoyable film and I'm shocked I'd never heard of it before I watched. A caption at the start of the movie says "in honor of all the B Movies" or words to that effect, and Vivre sa vie "My Life to Live" is clearly a take on the morality driven exploitation picture- think Reefer Madness for the best known example- though these films were current for a long duration from the pre-Code era to at least the 60s. The tone is not quite irreverent, but nor is it moralistic or preachy. In fact, Vivre sa vie is pretty much the embodiment of "cool" in every meaning of the word.
This is Godard PRIOR to his headline dive into narrative incoherence, experimental techniques and Marxist politics. In other words, Vivre sa vie deserves status as a classic of the heart of French New Wave and I'm just stunned it isn't watched more often. You certainly should check it out. I can't think of more than maybe 5 or 6 movies out of 150 ish watched where I've actually recommended the moview.