2016 Film Essays

BFI Southbank’s Jean-Luc Godard Retrospective: Highlights from Anna Karina’s ‘Bande à part’ Q&A


It’s not often you get to see a living legend speak in person, yet alone for a whole day (if your stamina and wallet can handle it). But that’s an opportunity the BFI Southbank in London offered on Saturday, January 16. As part of its ongoing Jean-Luc Godard retrospective (running from January to March), the institution had Godard’s former muse and wife, Anna Karina, on site to intro a couple of films and participate in Q&As after some of them. Those films were Bande à part and Vivre sa vie (in which she starred), Le mépris, and the non-Godard film Singin’ in the Rain, which Karina was just allowed to program.

I was fortunate enough to attend both the screening of Bande à part and the subsequent Q&A. Below are a couple of highlights from Karina’s talk:


On Bande à parts legacy:

We had fun. Lots of fun. I have to say we didn’t really think about making great careers or things like that. We just wanted to be actors, you know, and play, have a nice time… and we had a nice time with Bande à part.

On the revitalised Paris of the 1960s:

Maybe it was more in London, because I remember at that time, I went to London a lot with the theatre and all that… I think with the miniskirt and all that, England was a little bit crazier than Paris.

On the the reception of Godard’s films:

You know, many people didn’t like the films at the time. I remember when we did Vivre sa vie, there were two guys in a cafe and I was with Jean-Luc. We went into the cafe, and one was saying, “I hate this film!” And the other said, “No, it’s great. I love that film.” And then [the other man] said, “No, I hate it.” And then Jean-Luc went to the guy, who hadn’t seen Jean-Luc, and said, “Okay, you didn’t like my film? Here: here’s the money, I’ll give you the money back.” And then [the guy] went, “Oh no, I’m so sorry!” So, you see, there were people who’d really scream they didn’t like the films at the time.

On Jean-Luc’s more reserved times on and off set:

Jean-Luc was not that much [of] a talker. He could be pretty silent. And even sometimes he would go and buy cigarettes, and he would come back three weeks later. And I’d sit there and wait with no money, because at that time, you couldn’t have a chequebook for women.

Josh Slater-Williams (@jslaterwilliams) is a freelance writer based in England. Alongside writing for Vague Visages, he is a regular contributor to independent British magazine The Skinny and has written for Little White Lies magazine, VODzilla.co, The Film Stage, and PopOptiq.


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