Twelve episodic tales in the life of a Parisian woman and her slow descent into prostitution.
"The film’s formal radicalism, which is distinctive even among these most radical early works of this most radical filmmaker, is evident from the credit sequence onwards. The cinematographer is Raoul Coutard, who shot all of Godard’s great films, and whose camerawork in this film Godard himself said was “his best” (Godard on Godard, 187). The camera is an unignorable – one might almost say “vivid” – presence throughout this film, which is to say that it often obscures as much as it facilitates our vision. The radicalism of the film holds up, even 60 years later; but “radical,” certainly in this case, does not mean difficult to watch, or hard to follow. Vivre sa vie is the most beautiful, the saddest, and at the same time one of the most charming films Godard ever made. Anna Karina’s performance, in particular, is outstanding. And it includes, near the end, one of the most unexpected and strangely uncommented-on plot developments in Godard’s cinema, a truly remarkable encounter with the one man in the film who treats Nana with kindness and understanding: an appearance (his sole on film, I believe) by the philosopher of language Brice Parain, unnamed in the film, but clearly playing himself."
(from the introduction by Timothy Bewes, English, Brown University)