As part of the three-month ‘Jean-Luc Godard’ season at the British Film Institute on London’s Southbank, his muse and first wife, actress, model, singer, writer and director, Anna Karina was a special guest on Saturday. Regarded as the most influential and radical of the French ‘La Nouvelle Vague’ (New Wave) Godard challenged the conventions of traditional Hollywood and French cinema in the 1960’s and 70’s. He was awarded an Honorary Academy Award in 2010, but did not appear in person to collect it.
At the age of 17 Hanne Karin Blarke Bayer hitch-hiked from her native Copenhagen, arriving in Paris, poor and unable to speak the local language. While sitting at the trendy ‘Les Deux Magots’, an advertising agent approached her to do some photos. The cafe was considered the ‘hotbed of the artistic and intellectual elite of the day’, whose regulars included Pablo Picasso and Ernest Hemingway. She went on to model for Pierre Cardin and Coco Chanel, who helped devise her professional name Anna Karina. Godard first noticed her in the Palmolive soap ads, which depicted her in a bathtub covered in bubbles. She featured in seven of the French auteur’s films, including UNE FEMME EST UNE FEMME in 1960, for which she was awarded the Silver Bear for Best Actress at the Berlin Film Festival. Anna worked with other directors, including George Cukor, Tony Richardson, Franco Brusati and Andre Delvaux. She is also an accomplished singer, with major hits.’Sous Le Soleil Exactement’ and ‘Roller Girl’, stage actress and writer with four novels published.
Anna participated in Q+A sessions for BANDE A PART (1964) and VIVRE SA VIE (1962) as well as introducing LE MEPRIS (1963) on Saturday. She also introduced SINGING IN THE RAIN’ (1952) on Sunday as part of the BFI’s Screen Epiphany series. It was a busy schedule for the 75 year old, but when she arrived she graciously took the time to sign a string of vintage memorabilia for a handful of admirers and my sketch.