"A chic tragedy recasting the archetypical fallen angel as modern woman (or is that vice versa?), Jean-Luc Godard's fourth film is a heartfelt, headstrong attempt to push his own concept of a deconstructed cinema even further into the stratosphere." David Fear in Time Out New York on today's feature in the Recyclage de luxe Online Film Festival: "Most of the ingredients of his early period are present: pulp-fiction posturing, quotes from poets and philosophers, puckish formal innovations. The manner in which these elements are presented, however, is the first step toward the cohesive blend of intellectual savviness and emotional resonance Godard would perfect down the road. Though this story of a gamine gone bad is subtitled A Film in 12 Chapters (it's subdivided into as many sections), the director could have substituted A Revolution in Miniature and still captured the essence of his experimental melodrama."
"Star Anna Karina was in the brutal early rounds of marriage to her director, who was never more doting and egghead-condescending than in this showpiece," writes Nick Pinkerton in the Voice. More from Colin McCabe in his Godard: A Portrait of the Artist at 70 (2003): "Karina's performance, already more than impressive in Le Petit soldat and Une Femme est une femme, is both stunning and moving. If the sign of Une Femme est une femme is joy and birth, that of Vivre sa vie is sorrow and death. And death there had been. Karina's pregnancy had ended with a very late miscarriage which not only delivered a stillborn child but also left her infertile.... Whatever problems the couple had faced before, they now became worse, at least for Karina. There were suicide attempts and a constant strain of horrific sorrow."
"Vivre sa vie (My Life to Live, 1962), now widely hailed as the most complex and successful among Godard's early films, epitomizes his radical 'destruction' of orthodox cinema," writes Shun-liang Chao for Synoptique. "His endeavour to split with the values of classical cinema and create something new is no doubt the very spirit of modernism; and yet, concurrently, some of the innovations in Vivre sa vie open the gate to postmodern aesthetics." He argues that the film is "a seemingly paradoxical composite of modern and postmodern aesthetics, that it is a practice of the (Lyotardian) theory of postmodernism as both in continuity and discontinuity with modernism."
For Senses of Cinema, Roland-François Lack breaks down the twelve tableaux and adds an "A-to-Z of Vivre sa vie."
And as a bonus, an alternate take on the above dance scene!: