Anna Karina (born Hanne Karin Bayer, 22 September 1940 – 14 December 2019) was a Danish-French film avant garde actress, director, writer, and singer. She rose to prominence as French New Wave director Jean-Luc Godard's muse in the 1960s, performing in several of his films, including The Little Soldier, A Woman Is a Woman, My Life to Live, Bande à part (Band of Outsiders), Pierrot le Fou (Crazy Pete) and Alphaville. For her performance in A Woman Is a Woman, Karina won the Silver Bear Award for Best Actress at the Berlin Film Festival.
Anna Karina in February 1968
Hanne Karin Blarke Bayer
22 September 1940
|Died||14 December 2019 (aged 79)|
|Occupation||Actress, film director, writer, singer|
(m. 1961; div. 1965)
(m. 1968; div. 1974)
(m. 1978; div. 1981)
(m. 1982; her death 2019)
In 1972, Karina set up a production company for her directorial debut, Vivre ensemble (1973), which screened in the Critics' Week lineup at the 26th Cannes Film Festival. She also directed the French-Canadian film Victoria (2008). In addition to her work in cinema, she worked as a singer, and wrote several novels in French.
Karina is often considered an icon of 1960s cinema, and referred to as the "effervescent free spirit of the French New Wave, with all of the scars that the position entails". The New York Times described her as "one of the screen's great beauties and an enduring symbol of the French New Wave."
Hanne Karin Bayer (later known as Anna Karina) was born in Solbjerg, Denmark. Her mother was a dress shop owner and her father left the family a year after she was born. Karina recalled she met her father three times:
"The first time, I was 4 years old, he gave me a banana, I crunched and spat, because I didn't know that I had to remove the skin. The second time, I was still a minor, the meeting was at a train station in London, I was with Jean-Luc, and when he saw me, my father said to me: 'You miss a button' (sic). I yelled in Danish that he was no more my father than any guy in the station. And the third time was in 1963 in Barcelona, I was shooting The Thief of Tibidabo by Maurice Ronet. We have lunch together for twenty minutes, he was with one of his sons, Soren" who was "8 years old, he was very friendly, we talk about everything and Africa. I finally got to know him and I'm happy. He promises to write to me. And since then I wait, I wait, I wait. I'm still waiting for the postcard."
She lived with her maternal grandparents for three years, then spent the next four years in foster care before returning to live with her mother. She has described her childhood as "terribly wanting to be loved", and as a child she made numerous attempts to run away from home. Her mother remarried, but her step-father was abusive.
She began her career in Denmark, where she sang in cabarets and worked as a model playing in commercials. At age 14, she appeared in a Danish short film by Ib Schmedes, which won a prize at Cannes. In 1958, after a row with her mother, she hitchhiked to Paris.
Karina was 17 when she arrived in Paris, with only "10,000 francs" and unable to speak French. One day while sitting at the café Les Deux Magots she was approached by a woman from an advertisement agency who asked her to do some photos. She began to work as a model and eventually became successful, posing for several magazines, including Elle, and meeting Pierre Cardin and Coco Chanel. Karina said that Chanel helped her devise her professional name, Anna Karina, which was deliberately coined to evoke the Leo Tolstoy novel, Anna Karenina. She appeared on the front cover of the Elle fashion magazine and in commercials for products such as Coca-Cola, Pepsodent, and Palmolive soap.
Jean-Luc Godard, then a film critic for Cahiers du cinéma, first saw Karina in the Palmolive adverts in which she posed in bathtubs, during movie previews in a Monsavon pub. He was casting his debut feature film, Breathless (À bout de souffle, 1960), and offered her a small part in it, but she refused when he mentioned that there would be a nude scene. When Godard questioned her refusal, mentioning her apparent nudity in the Palmolive ads, she is said to have replied, "Are you mad? I was wearing a bathing suit in those ads—the soapsuds went up to my neck. It was in your mind that I was undressed." In the end, the character Godard reserved for Karina did not appear in the film. Godard offered her a role in The Little Soldier (Le Petit Soldat, not released until 1963) which concerns contentious French actions during the Algerian War. She played a pro-Algerian activist. Karina, then still under 21, had to persuade her estranged mother to sign the contract for her. The film was immediately controversial, outlawed from French theaters for its content referencing the Algerian War. Karina and Godard received death threats, and "had to live in secret places".
As Angela in A Woman Is a Woman (Une femme est une femme, 1961). Karina's role was as an unattached striptease dancer who nevertheless wishes to have a child and daydreams about appearing in MGM musicals. Her school-girl costume emulated Leslie Caron in Gigi (1958), worn even while performing her act. Karina won the Silver Bear for Best Actress at the 11th Berlin International Film Festival for her performance. In all, Karina appeared in eight films directed by Godard, including My Life to Live (Vivre sa vie, 1962), Band of Outsiders (Bande à part, 1964) Pierrot le Fou and Alphaville (both 1965). In Pierrot le Fou, Karina's character is on the run with her ex-boyfriend while in Alphaville, a science-fiction film often equated to Bladerunner, her role requires Karina to have difficulty saying the phrase "I love you." The last film in the sequence was Made in USA (1966). Anne Billson, in an article querying the concept of the female muse, wrote that Godard in his films with Karina "seems to have trouble conceiving that the female experience revolves around anything other than prostitution, duplicity, or wanting babies." Karina herself did not object to being described as Godard's muse: "Maybe it’s too much, it sounds so pompous. But of course I’m always very touched to hear people say that. Because Jean-Luc gave me a gift to play all of those parts."
Her career flourished, with Karina appearing in dozens of films through the 1960s, including The Nun (La Religieuse, 1966), directed by Jacques Rivette, Luchino Visconti's The Stranger (Lo straniero, 1967), the George Cukor/Joseph Strick collaboration Justine (1969), and Tony Richardson's Laughter in the Dark (1969). She continued to work steadily into the 1970s, with roles in Christian de Chalonge's The Wedding Ring (L'Alliance, 1971), Andre Delvaux's Rendezvous at Bray (Rendez-vous à Bray, also 1971), The Salzburg Connection (1972), and Franco Brusati's Bread and Chocolate (Pane e cioccolata, 1973).
In 1972, she set up a production company, Raska, for her directorial debut, Living Together (Vivre ensemble, 1973), in which she also acted. The film screened in the Critics’ Week lineup at the 26th Cannes Film Festival.
She starred in Rainer Werner Fassbinder's Chinese Roulette (Chinesisches Roulette, 1976); Fassbinder allegedly wrote the film for her and her partner at the time, Ulli Lommel. She later wrote and acted in Last Song (1987) and appeared in Up, Down, Fragile (Haut bas fragile, 1995), directed by Jacques Rivette, and sang in The Truth About Charlie (2002), a remake of the film Charade (1963).
Karina wrote, directed and starred in Victoria (2008), a musical road movie filmed in Montreal and Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean, Quebec. The lead character, played by Karina, has amnesia. Richard Kuipers praised it in Variety as "a pleasant gambol through the backwoods of Quebec."
Music and writingEdit
Karina maintained a singing career. At the end of the 1960s, she scored a major hit with "Sous le soleil exactement" and "Roller Girl" by Serge Gainsbourg. Both songs are from the TV musical comedy Anna (1967), by the film director Pierre Koralnik, in which she sings seven songs alongside Gainsbourg and Jean-Claude Brialy. Karina subsequently recorded an album, Une histoire d'amour, with Philippe Katerine, which was followed by a concert tour. In 2005, she released Chansons de films, a collection of songs sung in movies.
Karina wrote four novels: Vivre ensemble (1973), Golden City (1983), On n'achète pas le soleil (1988), and Jusqu'au bout du hasard (1998).
While working together on Le Petit Soldat, Karina and Godard began a relationship and married in 1961. Eventually, Karina served as a cinematic muse to Godard, appearing in eight of his films, including Alphaville, bande à part, and Pierrot le Fou, during their five year marriage and after. Karina liked being the muse. "How could I not be honoured?" she told Xan Brooks of The Guardian in 2016. "Maybe it’s too much, it sounds so pompous. But of course I’m always very touched to hear people say that. Because Jean-Luc gave me a gift to play all of those parts. It was like Pygmalion, you know? I was Eliza Doolittle and he was the teacher." At this, she briefly channels Henry Higgins. "By Jove," she says. "I think she’s got it."
The couple became, according to The Independent, "one of the most celebrated pairings of the 1960s." A writer for Filmmaker magazine called their work "arguably the most influential body of work in the history of cinema."
Despite the critical success, their relationship behind the scenes was described as tumultuous; they fought on film sets, Karina fell ill several times, and Godard was often absent without explanation. One Godard film from this period which does not feature Karina, Contempt (1963), is said to be based on their difficult relationship. The couple divorced in 1965.
It was all very exciting from the beginning. Of course we have a great love story and all that, but we were so different. He was 10 years older than me. He was very strange. He would go away and come back three weeks later ... It was difficult, and I was a young girl, not even 21—at the time Godard was 30. I know he didn't mean to hurt me, but he did. He was never there, he was never coming back, and I never knew where he was. He drove me a bit crazy.
After divorcing Godard, Karina remarried three times; she was married to French actors Pierre Fabre from 1968 to 1974 and Daniel Duval from 1978 to 1981, and to American film director Dennis Berry from 1982 until her death. She was asked why she married four times in an interview published om December 15, 2019. The retelling of her response is as follows: The first time, reflects it, Jean-Luc offered me marriage because I was pregnant." Silence. "And maybe also because he loved me." She is badly treated in hospital, which leaves her with an embryo that has died for several months and the final impossibility of being a mother. "It remains very upsetting for me", she said, crying. The fourth time is with Dennis Berry. He asks her hand on a whim on a Sunday in Las Vegas – so the jewelry stores for the ring were closed, she laughs. It is pointed out to him that he did not marry Anna Karina, but Anna Karina-the Love-of-Godard. Twenty years ago, the Swiss filmmaker sent her a six-page letter when she was playing After the rehearsal, according to Bergman. She hasn't heard from him since. "He says that I am an ancient story, but for me, it is always in my heart, and will remain so for life."
Karina died at the age of 79 on Saturday, December 14, 2019, at a hospital in Paris. According to her agent, Laurent Balandras, the cause of death was cancer. However, her husband, Dennis Berry, told that the cause was not cancer, but a complication following a muscular rupture.
Karina is regularly considered an icon of 1960s cinema, a staple in French New Wave cinema, as well as a style icon. The Guardian described her as an "effervescent free spirit of the French new wave." The New York Times described her style as looking like a schoolgirl in her acting roles, regardless whether she was playing a streetwalker or a terrorist. Her signature look was her dark hair, wispy bangs, heavy eyeliner and school uniform of primary-coloured sailor-uniform tops, knee socks, plaid headwear such as berets and boaters. Refinery29 wrote that "her 60s French girl style – think sailor dresses, tartan, long socks, and hats – and mesmerizing doe-eyed beauty mean she continues to be referenced today by the super-stylish."
|1961||Tonight or Never||Valérie||Michel Deville|
|A Woman Is a Woman||Angela Récamier||Jean-Luc Godard|
|1962||Cléo from 5 to 7||The Fiancée||Agnès Varda||Episode: "Les fiancés du pont Macdonald"|
|She'll Have to Go||Toni||Robert Asher|
|Sun in Your Eyes||Dagmar||Jacques Bourdon|
|My Life to Live||Nana Kleinfrankenheim||Jean-Luc Godard|
|Three Fables of Love||Colombe||Hervé Bromberger||(segment "Le corbeau et le renard")|
|1963||The Little Soldier||Veronica Dreyer||Jean-Luc Godard|
|Sweet and Sour||La pauvre Ginette||Jacques Baratier|
|1964||Band of Outsiders||Odile||Jean-Luc Godard|
|Circle of Love||Rose / The Chambermaid||Roger Vadim|
|All About Loving||Hélène||Jean Aurel|
|1965||The Thief of Tibidabo||Maria||Maurice Ronet|
|Alphaville||Natascha von Braun||Jean-Luc Godard|
|The Camp Followers||Elenitza Karaboris||Valerio Zurlini|
|Un mari à un prix fixe||Béatrice Reinhoff||Claude de Givray|
|Pierrot le Fou||Marianne Renoir||Jean-Luc Godard|
|1966||The Nun||Suzanne Simonin||Jacques Rivette|
|Made in USA||Paula Nelson||Jean-Luc Godard|
|1967||Anna||Anna||Pierre Koralnik||TV movie|
|Zärtliche Haie||Elena / Costa||Michel Deville|
|The Oldest Profession||Natasha / Eleanor Romeovich, Hostess 703||Jean-Luc Godard||(segment "Anticipation")|
|The Stranger||Marie Cardona||Luchino Visconti|
|1968||The Magus||Anne||Guy Green|
|Before Winter Comes||Maria||J. Lee Thompson|
|1969||Man on Horseback||Elisabeth Kohlhaas||Volker Schlöndorff|
|Laughter in the Dark||Margot||Tony Richardson|
|Justine||Melissa||George Cukor and Joseph Strick|
|Dämonische Leinwand||Klaus Wyborny|
|1970||The Time to Die||The Unnamed Woman||André Farwagi|
|The Wedding Ring||Jeanne||Christian de Chalonge|
|1971||Rendezvous at Bray||She (The Waitress)||André Delvaux|
|Carlos||Clara||Hans W. Geißendörfer||TV movie|
|1972||The Salzburg Connection||Anna Bryant||Lee H. Katzin|
|1973||Vivre ensemble||Julie Anderson||Anna Karina|
|1974||Bread and Chocolate||Elena||Franco Brusati|
|Morel's Invention||Faustine||Emidio Greco|
|1976||The Musician Killer||Louise||Benoît Jacquot|
|Scrambled Eggs||Clara Dutilleul||Joël Santoni|
|Chinese Roulette||Irene Cartis||Rainer Werner Fassbinder|
|1978||Surprise Sock||Nathalie||Jean-François Davy|
|Just like Home||Anna||Márta Mészáros|
|Ausgerechnet Bananen||Natascha||Ulli Lommel|
|1979||The Story of a Mother||Christine Olsen||Claus Weeke|
|1980||Charlotte, Tell Your Mother that I Love Her||Stéphane||Aly Borgini|
|1983||Vincent's Friend||Eleonore||Pierre Granier-Deferre|
|1984||Ave Maria||Berthe Granjeux||Jacques Richard|
|1985||Treasure Island||The Mother||Raoul Ruiz|
|1987||Last Song||Susan||Dennis Berry|
|Last Summer in Tangiers||Myrrha, a cabaret singer||Alexandre Arcady|
|Cayenne Palace||Lola||Alain Maline|
|1988||The Abyss||Catherine||André Delvaux|
|1990||The Man Who Wanted to Be Guilty||Edith||Ole Roos|
|1995||Up, Down, Fragile||Sarah||Jacques Rivette|
|1996||Chloé||Katia||Dennis Berry||TV movie|
|2002||The Truth About Charlie||Karina||Jonathan Demme|
|2003||I, Cesar||Gloria||Richard Berry|
|2008||Victoria||Victoria||Anna Karina||(final film role)|
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