“Vivre Sa Vie”: A Film about Loosing yourself in the Gig Economy
There are fair amount of films about prostitutes, and for a profession kept so quiet in public society, this reality is surprising. Within this canon of thought, we have “Belle de Jour”, “Pretty Woman”, “Taxi Driver”, “American Gigolo”, “Midnight Cowboy”, “Risky Business”, “Moulin Rouge”… the list goes on and on. Why is this profession, if we’re isolating these stories around that commonality, so often shown and discussed in cinema?
Most of us don’t grow up with the aspiration of becoming a sex worker, it’s often the result of circumstance. In fact, many of us don’t end up in the professions we initially craved or set after, but are satisfying roles that were available during our time of job vacancy, within our small circle of connections, achievable with the amount of education/training we were able to afford, etc. there is a rotating wheel of individual factors.
Each film listed above is unique in its tone, character progression, and mission, the character’s profession being the only link between each narrative. So, objectively, why do we keep making films about sex workers? And why should we watch this one, “Vivre Sa Vie”? Who is Nana?
Since “Vivre Sa Vie” is a Godard film, it is of course intellectual, filled with philosophical conversations about resilience, dreams, and creative pursuits. It is a semi-hopless, but very real story about getting lost in the gig economy while trying to pursue something more.
We watch Nana’s life unfold in 12 linear, enigmatic episodes that illustrate her progression and descent. The film starts at a coffee shop where she ends a relationship that is not worth her time and, ultimately, pulling focus from her acting pursuits. Then, we move on to see her working in the service industry (a record shop), sharing and discussing her wants (more money, success as an actress), followed by a warm introduction to a ‘sinful’, higher paying job that will give her financial ease. Despite the bad wrap, this job will lessen her stress, and therefore, give her energy to pursue her craft. However; it doesn’t happen. She’s a prostitute till the day she dies, tragically, at the end of the film…
While working towards the life we want, we often find ourselves living in a different narrative then we initially intended. A perfect example of this is the character of Chet in Noah Baumbach’s “Kicking and Screaming” who elongates his undergraduate experience to avoid an unsuccessful ‘real’, adult life. However; at the tail end of the film he realizes that this is his real life, he’s not prolonging it — it’s happening. He’s a bartender, taking liberal arts classes, and, admittedly, doing not much. Nana find herself in the prostitution world, working the game, expanding her clientele, and while she continues this career she forgets why she transitioned into this role in the first place. She forgets her dreams.
“Vivre Sa Vie” translates to “My Life to Live” and, more often then not, we live for others and not ourselves. Whether that person is our boss, our partner, our mother, people collectively/society as a whole, we often live to succeed in satisfying the expectations and obligations of others. Nana aims to live her life, to be an actress and artist; however, she ends up being a product of the system she survives in, unable to satisfy her creative intentions and ambitions because she has to pay her steep, urban-living bills and is alone in that — like many of us in the world today.
“Vivre Sa Vie” is a beautiful, evocative, emotional narrative and one of my favorite Godard films (sorry, “Breathless”). It is bare, poetic, and open film, fluid in interpretation. It’s a character study worth talking about and I hope you enjoy this lens on the story — as well as take the opportunity to watch it for yourselves.