Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Dipping My Toes in French New Wave: Vivre Sa Vie and Au Hasard Balthazar
This week brought another Godard film, and a donkey film from Robert Bresson. This month is going faaaaaaaaast, and I'm sad that I only have two spots left to fill. French New Wave makes me happy, which is kinda funny because all of the films have been sad. I'm definitely enjoying this little marathon...
That's two out of two for Godard so far. While I really enjoyed Breathless, Vivre Sa Vie has been the stand out for me. It is told in twelve chapters, as it follows young Nana (Anna Karina) and her descent into prostitution. Breathless was a film that was dripping with style, but Vivre Sa Vie had that one extra factor that made it more interesting to watch. First of all, I loved Anna Karina. She just oozed this air of style from the way her eyelashes batted about and her hair formed that spectacular bob on her head - basically, she was my idea of everything stylish from the 60s. Plus, that dancing scene of hers completely one me over. The story that she performed was devastating, though. Nana was such a sweet, quite naive girl who needed to make ends meet, which unfortunately turned her to doing something that extreme. However, Godard doesn't handle the prostitution as a way of making us feel only pity for Nana. We're drawn into her world, where we find out the ins and outs of the job, and how the people doing it interact with each other. Again, it is the documentary feel that Godard achieved with Breathless, and achieved with this one, too. Instead of making this an overly melodramatic film about a woman's sad descent into something she does out of desperation, it is basically a close up on what can happen to a person. A real person. Not a movie character.
One of the things I loved the most about this film, though, was how philosophical it was. There was one particular chapter towards the end which had Nana talking to an old man at a restaurant. I can't really explain how wonderful this scene is - just the words thrown back and forth are so beautiful, so meaningful, and so interesting. In fact, I really want to get a transcript of this conversation to read every single day for the rest of my life, just to remind me of the little things I always forget. And at least six times a year I want to revisit this film to remind me of everything else that I always forget. It's that amazing.
Now, I feel a little weird writing about Au Hasard Balthazar, since I had this especially bizarre dream about it last night. It was one of those dreams which I don't remember at length, but all day I've had the donkey, Balthazar, haunting my brain. Which is strange because Au Hasard Balthazar isn't the kind of film that I though would be capable of making me look at donkeys in a different, darker way. In fact, it is just a really lovely, but of course very tragic, film about a donkey and his times and trials in life. He starts off life surrounded by happy little kids, only to descend into a life filled with hard work and abuse from the people around him. If you've been around this space on the web for a while you'll know that I have a huge tendency to love any film that has a cute animal in it, and this one is no exception. However, what this film has above some other animal movies is that through the eyes of this donkey, we see what the world is. We see how cruel people can be. We see how unfair everything is. We see how a life can be lived, day by day, with everything and everyone changing around it. Perhaps that's why the dream that I had last night was so unsettling - Balthazar, the poor, innocent donkey that he was, was really a symbolism for the world.
I honestly can't say that I loved this film, but I definitely appreciated it for what it represented. Especially because it managed to be such an effective outlook on life even though it wasn't told from the point of view of a human. And that's something very magical, indeed.
What do you think of these films?