“Vivre Sa Vie”: A Film about Loosing yourself in the Gig Economy

Anna Karina as Nana in “Vivre Sa Vie”, 1962.

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?

Anna Karina as Nana in “Vivre Sa Vie”, 1962.

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…

Anna Karina as Nana in “Vivre Sa Vie”, 1962.

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.

Anna Karina as Nana in “Vivre Sa Vie”, 1962.

“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.

--

--

--

A fiercely femme retrospective survey of cinema for a new audience. Yeah, it’s good, but what’s the takeaway?

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Recommended from Medium

The glossary of dystopia

3 killer movies to get you through social isolation

Come for the Activism;Stay for the Art

A Few Thoughts on I Am Eleven

Without A Doubt, Johnny Depp Has Been A Movie Star For Well Over 20 Years

Filmmaking & Video Journalism Grants: Winter 2017/2018 Deadlines

The Craft: Legacy — Movie Review

WATCH ABOMINABLE 2019 FULL

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Nina's Film Notes

Nina's Film Notes

A fiercely femme retrospective survey of cinema for a new audience. Yeah, it’s good, but what’s the takeaway?

More from Medium

A Music Educator Making a Difference

Should You Get Pet Insurance

Let’s stop asking leaders to be superheroes.

Felicia Rose Chavez and Rita Banerjee discuss The Anti-Racist Writing Workshop in Kweli Journal