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Anna Karina

Anna Karina

Few faces have fluttered the hearts of male cinephiles the way Anna Karina’s has. Karina has written and directed films, taken on prominent stage roles (including in plays directed by Jacques Rivette and Ingmar Bergman), had a successful singing career, and written four novels, but, of course, she is cited most often as Jean-Luc Godard’s New Wave muse and first wife. Godard decided he wanted to put her on-screen after seeing her in a sudsy Palmolive ad on television in the late 1950s. Though she turned down a small (nude) role in Breathless, she was soon cast in Godard’s next film, Le petit soldat (1961), at age twenty, and would go on to appear in six more of his films during the sixties, including the iconic Vivre sa vie and Band of Outsiders (she and Godard would also cameo together in Agnès Varda’s Cléo from 5 to 7). Though their cinematic collaboration seemed harmonious, behind the scenes, their relationship was tumultuous and bitter, made all the more difficult by the fact that it was under constant public scrutiny. Their three-year marriage ended in 1964, though they continued to work together until 1966. Karina stayed with film acting in the coming decades, working with such directors as Rivette, Luchino Visconti, George Cukor, Tony Richardson, and Rainer Werner Fassbinder.