I was glad to come home to a short movie - directed in 1962 by Jean-Luc Godard. It follows a woman's life in 12 sections, short and simple, and not very long. I needed simple. Everyone in my office has been sick, and coming to work,. so of course I have become ill. Being in a bright, smelly office all day made me feel sicker, and taking DayQuil made me useless. I would get up to ask someone for help with something and by the time I walked the three feet back to my desk, I would have forgotten what they told me. But trudging through work did have a plus side - I won tickets to Sunday's Chicago Blackhawks game! A brief moment of excitement to break up the shivering, tea-drinking, and coughing, which is still my current activity.
Enough about me. I really liked this movie. The camerawork was astonishing. It was like a person, as stupid as that sounds. It followed movement that way you or I would if we were watching the characters, it felt like it had emotions. Ebert touches on this, writing that at the end that " the camera sees the violent moment and then looks down! Down at the street, or at its feet. The film looks away from its own ending" (The Great Movies, 312). Down at its feet is a strange way to explain camera movement, but it's how the camera feels in this film - it is a presence, another character. It is really there, experiencing and observing. It makes the movie so spellbinding, as though because the camera is so interested and engrossed, so too are you.
The plot is sort of simple and small. The film is mostly just a bunch of small moments strung together. People smoke. Pinball is played. People have sex. They read aloud from books. They go see movies. It's all very easy and normal. It feels very natural and real to watch, and it's fascinating in that way. The woman in the film Nana, is almost stoic, and never has any overt emotions through most of the film. Ebert writes about how there is only one time in the film she seems interested - when she speaks with the old man. He says of it, "This from a woman who has been reluctant to reveal any thoughts or feelings, who has been all surface. We are reminded of a story Paul told earlier in the film, about a child who explained that if you take away the outside of a chicken, you have the inside, and if you take away the inside, you have the soul. Nana is all outside" (The Great Movies, 312). The film is all action and existing, not feeling or thinking.
I seem to have a thing for movies like this. I'm sure they are not for everyone. Most people I know would sleep during a movie this slow and emotionless and then awake to become mad at the ending. It's not a bad thing at all. I mean, I sort of felt mad at the ending like. "How pretentious to do that." But I like that it made me mad, so I enjoyed it. Maybe as a screenwriter and maybe watching so many movies looking for how to make them differently, I like it when I am upset by movies. I'm ok being trolled by them, as my friend Barry once told me. Not everyone likes this, which is understandable. But if you do like slow, black and white, French movies, check this one out. It's short and it's really good. Let me know if you see it!
Have any of you seen My Life to Live? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Ebert's Great Movie Essay on My Life To Live