Sometime in 1969, John Hinderaker and I fell in love with the same woman. Her name was Anna.
Unfortunately, Anna was already married, and for the second time. Previously, she had been the wife of Jean Luc Godard, the French film director in whose movies Anna beguiled us.
Anna Karina died last week at the age of 79. Her artistic legacy includes not just the Godard films — such as “Vivre Sa Vie” and “Pierrot le Fou” — but also classics like “La Religieuse,” “The Magus,” “Justine,” and “The Stranger.” It also includes her recordings as a singer and several novels (none of which I have read).
Karina’s beauty is also her legacy. Her obituary in the Washington Post accurately describes her as “luminous.” It adds that “with her alabaster face, dark bangs and piercing teal eyes, Ms. Karina was an internationally recognized emblem of the French New Wave.”
Karina’s life story, particularly her marriage to Godard, is also the stuff of legends. In her later years, she called it a “great love story.” But there certainly were ups and downs, including a suicide attempt.
I could never understand his behavior. He would say he was going out for cigarettes and then come back three weeks later.
And at that time, as a woman, you didn’t have any checkbooks, you didn’t have any money. So he was off seeing Ingmar Bergman in Sweden or William Faulkner in America. And I was sitting around the apartment without any food.
I doubt that John or I would have brought Anna happiness, but at least we would have made sure she had food.
How do Karina’s Godard films hold up today, almost 60 years after the fact? In 2012, a poll of directors by Sight & Sound magazine placed the two mentioned above among the 100 greatest of all time.
I’m not taking their word for it, though. Rather, I’m hoping that Karina’s death causes her films to become accessible for a while. Then, we can judge for ourselves.
I know the actress will be as radiant and alluring as ever. Having seen a few Godard movies lately — “Breathless” with Jean Seberg and “Contempt” with Bridgette Bardot, both of which have considerable merit but neither of which is truly great, in my opinion — I’m less certain about the films.