Anna Karina (1940-2019)

« Il se demande si le monde devient un rêve. Ou si le rêve devient le monde. »

Anna Karina (Odile) in Bande à part (Jean-Luc Godard, 1964)


« Venez jeudi, à 17 heures, chez le producteur Georges de Beauregard, c’est pour un rôle principal. Signé JLG. »

Jean-Luc Godard’s telegram to Anna Karina for Le petit soldat (1963)


« Avait-elle des yeux gris Vélasquez ou gris Renoir ? »

Michel Subor on Anna Karina (Veronica Dreyer) in Le petit soldat (1963)


« La comédienne phare de la Nouvelle Vague a su fredonner et chorégraphier ses personnages de femme indépendante. Entre pop et politique. »



« Avec elle, on avait une autre façon de jouer. On peut comparer les films qu’elle a tournés avec Godard aux tandems Ingmar Bergman – Liv Ullmann, Antonioni – Monica Vitti, ou Sternberg – Marlène Dietrich. Mais sa carrière dépasse de loin son alliance avec Godard. »

Michel Ciment1


Danish-born actress and singer Anna Karina has passed away on December 14 at the age of 79. At 17, she ran away from home and hitchhiked to Paris, where she began modeling after she was discovered while sitting at the legendary Left Bank cafe Les Deux Magots. It was Coco Chanel who advised her to change her real name Hanne Karin Bayer and suggested the stage name that recalled Tolstoy’s novel Anna Karenina. Jean-Luc Godard, a film critic at the time, first noticed her in a movie theater ad for a Palmolive bath product. When “that strange guy with the dark glasses” subsequently offered her a small part in his first full-length film A bout de souffle, she declined because of a nude scene. A couple months later she accepted the leading role in his next film Le petit soldat. The end of the shoot marked the beginning of their love story and they married soon afterward in March 1961. They made seven feature films together.

Anna Karina went on to make about three dozen other films. She worked with André Delvaux (Rendez-vous à Bray, 1971; L’oeuvre au noir, 1988), George Cukor (Justine, 1969), Luchino Visconti (L'étranger, 1967), Rainer Werner Fassbinder (Chinese Roulette, 1976), Jacques Rivette (La religieuse, 1966; Haut bas fragile, 1995), Agnes Varda (Cléo de 5 à 7, 1961) and Raoul Ruiz (Treasure Island, 1985). She also directed, wrote and starred in Vivre ensemble (1973) and her road musical Victoria (2008).

Anna Karina developed parallel careers as a writer and pop singer. In February last year, she had released a last compilation album Je suis une aventurière. Karina has written four novels: Vivre ensemble (1973), Golden City (1982), On n’achète pas le soleil (1988) and Jusqu’au bout du hasard (1998). She has been decorated Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur and Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres. In Anna Karina souviens-toi (2017), the documentary by her last husband Dennis Berry, she comments on her long career. On January 8, Anna Karina would have presented Vivre sa vie at the Cinémathèque française as part of the complete retrospective of the work of Jean-Luc Godard. In May 2019, the Indie Lisboa festival and Portuguese cinematheque have just dedicated a retrospective to the work of Anna Karina in her presence.


“She made films with Jean-Luc Godard for a mere five years (was married to him for three of them), and they parted ways when she was 25. And yet, most of the obituaries today firmly center this brief period with Godard, praise her for being his ‘muse,’ and only mention in passing (if at all) the rest of her long and distinguished career, during which she made nearly 50 films, released pop music albums as a singer, wrote four novels, and herself directed a film (Vivre Ensemble) that has a strong reputation.”

Girish Shambu


« Anna Karina est décédée. Elle a illustré à son corps défendant le caractère vampirique du mythe de Pygmalion : malgré tout ce qu’elle a fait après, elle reste dans la mémoire cinéphilique la  « créature »  de Godard... »

Geneviève Sellier, author of La Nouvelle Vague, un cinéma au masculin singulier (2005; transl. Masculine Singular: French New Wave Cinema, 2008)

hautbasfragileAnna Karina as chanteuse in Jacques Rivette’s Haut bas fragile (1995).

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