“Because you speak to me in words, and I look at you with feelings.”—Anna Karina
If ever one actor, one face could define a genre of film it was Anna Karina.
The constant muse of iconic French director Jean-Luc Godard, Karina would star in a number of films which pioneered the French New Wave revolution. In all, Karina appeared in eight films directed by Godard, including My Life to Live (Vivre sa vie), Band of Outsiders (Bande à part) Pierrot le Fou, Alphaville and, of course, A Woman Is a Woman for which Karina won the Silver Bear Award for Best Actress at the Berlin Film Festival.
“How could I not be honoured?” she told The Guardian about being described as Godard’s muse while reflecting on her career. “Maybe it’s too much, it sounds so pompous,” she adds. But of course I’m always very touched to hear people say that. Because Jean-Luc gave me a gift to play all of those parts.”
Karina, who passed away last year aged 79, is widely regarded as the undisputed icon of 1960s cinema. Her signature look, which also turned her into a fashion symbol in her own right, triumphed a meteoric change in how we digest the visual aesthetics of cinema. It was just like gifts all the time, when somebody gives you something very, very fantastic,” she once said when explaining the feeling of landing a new role. “Also, it could be so difficult. I don’t look the same way in A Woman is a Woman as in My Life to Live or in Pierrot Le Fou. I am still very different every time. In Pierrot Le Fou it’s very different part. I don’t have the same kind of skin, haircut. All the actors, most of the time, would change their haircut, change their look. That was very interesting. I really liked that. But of course it’s better to be the same all the time because then people remember you better, I guess. I really am very, very proud.”
She added: “We never thought the films would be so famous for so long. We were just happy to do things. It was more bohemian. We knew we were doing something we liked and it was not like everyone else. It was a happy world.”
Watch Anna Karina’s guide to being mesmerising, above.