Remembering Anna Karina, French New Wave icon, through her films

Remembering Anna Karina, French New Wave icon, through her films

When Anna Karina was asked if she had a favorite film during a screening at BAM in 2016, the actress demurred. “How can you choose?,” she retorted to a packed theater. “One year you like this one better, then you like the other one. It’s difficult.”

For many, Karina, who died in December at the age of 79, encapsulated the rollicking wit of the French New Wave — a marker that would follow her throughout the career and life. This month, the tribute “Homage to Anna Karina” nods to this aspect of her career while also featuring films that exemplify the actress’s reach. Screening at Film Forum through Jan. 30, the nine films slated to appear include offerings such as Jean-Luc Godard’s romp “A Woman is a Woman” and Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s comedy “Chinese Roulette.”

Anna Karina in Jacques Rivette's "La Religieuse." Film Forum.
Anna Karina in Jacques Rivette’s “La Religieuse.” Film Forum.

A major aspect of Karina’s public story was her working and real-life relationship with Godard, with whom she created created seven full-length films between 1960 and 1966. As the story goes, Godard first came across Karina in a soap commercial, prompting the director to extend an offer for her to appear in his 1961 film “Breathless.”

Though the actress turned the part down due to the nudity it required, she went on to appear as the lead in Godard’s “Le Petit Soldat” just three months later. The film, held for three years because of its political content, cemented a partnership that would marry both the personal and professional lives of the actress and director. “Le Petit Soldat” and the films that followed (“A Woman is a Woman,” “Vivre Sa Vie,” “Band of Outsiders,” “Alphaville,” “Pierrot le Fou,” “Made in U.S.A.“) are all featured in Film Forum’s series.

Anna Karina in "A Woman is a Woman." Film Forum.
Anna Karina in “A Woman is a Woman.” Film Forum.

In addition to working with a wide range of directors, including Jacques Rivette (represented in the series by “La Religieuse“), Agnès Varda and Luchino Visconti, the actress spanned genres, churning out projects as a director, film writer, singer and novelist. In 1973, she made her directorial debut with the film “Vivre Ensemble,” and in 2008, she directed the last film she would appear in, “Victoria.”

The series kicks off Jan. 22 with a line-up that includes “A Woman is a Woman,” “Band of Outsiders” and “Pierrot le Fou,” and it continues through Jan. 30. A complete schedule and more information can be found here.

Top Image: Anna Karina in "Band of Outsiders." Photo: Film Forum.