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Bigger than Life: Vivre sa vie (My Life to Live)
Some of cinema’s most memorable images – and arguably the medium’s greatest invention – are close-ups. Before film, before close-ups, would we ever have seen a face so big?
From cinema’s earliest days, audiences have been drawn to the screen by an attraction to the huge faces put up there: movie stars grew out of this imagery. Close-ups also made possible a cinema of psychology: David Thomson has said it many times – “the most special effect in movies is always the human face when its mind is being changed.”
There are so many films to choose from, but Vivre sa vie is special in the way it has close-ups which reference or directly quote other close-ups (notably from Robert Bresson’s Pickpocket, and Carl Theodor Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc), some stand-out close-ups of its own, and still others which negate the idea of a close-up – shots of the back of star Anna Karina’s head as she chats with people off-screen, a trope since borrowed by both Quentin Tarantino and Steven Soderbergh.
France 1962 Dir Jean-Luc Godard 83 min