The Montreal World Fest has always had a strong Parisian presence, bringing in such French stars as Gerard Depardieu. At this September's Fest, I sat down for a glass of wine with juror Anna Karina, glorious icon of the 1960s French New Wave, who starred in a string of masterpieces directed by her then-husband Jean-Luc Godard, including Une femme est une femme (A Woman is a Woman,1961), Vivra sa Vie (My Life to Live, 1962), and Pierrot le fou (1965).
"Are you in contact with Godard?" I asked. According to a Godard bio, their artistic relationship was stormy, he abusive to his actress muse. The divorce in 1965 seemed inevitable. Surprise! Karina said really nice things about her ex-husband and director. "We're very far physically. Jean-luc lives in Switzerland and I in Paris, but we remain very close." At screenings around the globe of their collaborative works, the outgoing Karina often appears as spokesperson, with the reclusive Godard's blessing. They don't meet. "Anne-Marie is very jealous," she said of filmmaker Anne-Marie Mieville, with whom Godard has lived and worked since 1971. Karina shook her head, not understanding. "To be with someone, one must accept the past."
Karina launched into an amusing story about the beginnings of the influential cinema journal, Cahiers du Cinema, for which Godard, Rohmer, Truffaut were contributors. The first issue of 500 copies was placed in kiosks about Paris and immediately sold out. Likewise issue 2 of 1000 copies. With issue 3 on the stands of 2000 copies, a triumphant Eric Rohmer came knocking at Godard's door. Inside Godard's flat were all copies of issue 1 and issue 2, which he'd instantly purchased! "Rohmer was so mad," Karina laughed, "but that's what gave Cahiers du Cinema confidence to go on."
A compassionate, funny Godard? When I've seen him over the years, he can seem a stern, imposing figure, now a hardly grandfatherly 74. "Did Godard have a good heart?" I asked Karina. "He has a good heart," she corrected me. "He isn't dead
(Boston Phoenix, September, 2005)