From upstairs at the Brasserie Lipp in Paris, you have a perfect view of the Café de Flore, directly across the boulevard Saint-Germain. Both are famous Left Bank institutions where filmmakers such as Louis Malle, François Truffaut, Claude Chabrol, and Jean-Luc Godard rubbed shoulders with musicians, fashion designers, and literati alike. (A good shot of le Lipp, as it’s known locally, can be seen in Malle’s The Fire Within, as Alain Leroy, played by Maurice Ronet, sits outside at the Café de Flore, facing the boulevard, and facing his first drink in months.)
Upstairs at the Lipp, surrounded by original nineteenth-century crystal sconces and wall-length mirrors, cameraman André Bonzel, audio recordist Sylvain Ripaud, camera assistant Juraj Krasnohorsky, and I were setting up the shot for a video interview with the major darling of the nouvelle vague, Anna Karina. The maître d’ told us that she preferred to sit by the window. “It would be a nice-looking shot,” he said, with the refined wood molding and metal detailing. “It will look very French.” “But it doesn’t sparkle enough,” I responded, “like this room sparkles and like Anna Karina sparkles.” The interview was to accompany our special edition of Pierrot le fou. And after a publicized marriage to Godard, a few suicide attempts, a miscarriage of her child with Godard, and her ultimate divorce from him, Karina still manages to sparkle in Pierrot.
We could have used another thirty minutes to set up the shot when Karina arrived. She was ready to roll, with her dangley heart-shaped earrings jangling softly under her panama hat. As the producer of our DVD, I had a plan, a story I wanted to capture with the interview. In 1965, at Cannes, Karina was interviewed for the premiere of Pierrot. “Marianne is really a combination of all the characters I played for Jean-Luc: Angéla, Nana, Veronique,” she had said. My idea was to explore this comment with her—how Marianne Renoir was like a retrospective of all her roles with Godard. To me this said a great deal about the point in Godard’s career when he made Pierrot, reflecting on the past and, in the same breath, bidding it farewell.
I’d heard Karina likes champagne, so we ordered a bottle, popped the cork, and sat down to record. Pretty soon into the session, I posed the idea about her role of Marianne being “retrospective.”
“No, not at all. All my roles with Jean-Luc were so different. I loved to change my character, be someone new. My work with Jean-Luc was like a gift. My characters were all so different every time. Natasha in Alphaville has nothing to do with Nana in Vivre sa vie, has nothing to do with Angéla in A Woman Is a Woman, or with Marianne. And I looked so different in each one. Different hair and makeup, the way I dressed . . .” My plan had been swiftly foiled. “But I saw the interview from ’65 when you said . . .” How could I say that, charge her with changing her mind, charge her with contradicting something she said almost forty years ago? Well, you can’t. Or at least I couldn’t. Nor did I have to, since the ’65 Cannes piece would be included on our DVD release.
So we can let the pictures speak for themselves. Anna Karina was captured vividly, and with total clarity, by cinematographer Raoul Coutard’s lens, every time. She beckons us to watch her, wearing a new wig, new coat and dress, in 1.33, in 2.35, black and white, color—but always sparkling as Anna Karina.