Mark Thimijan’s She Lives Her Life is dedicated to Jean-Luc Godard – as is stated so just before the opening credits. The film is both a tribute to Godard’s legacy in cinema, and a retelling of his 1962 film, Vivre Sa Vie. Almost immediately, it becomes very clear that Godard is and has been a huge inspiration for Thimijan, so much so that one of the most impressive aspects of the film – if not the most impressive – is how perfectly he imitates his hero, from beginning to end. She Lives Her Life is a far more literal remake than one might expect, in that it follows Godard’s craft in filmmaking more carefully than it does his story. While viewers will draw plenty of parallels with this plot and the original, it is in the directing and editing that one truly finds Vivre Sa Vie, as well as Godard’s entire catalogue of work – with influences that touch on works as far and wide as Weekend.
Read at Unsung Films: Weekend.
For those of you who have not heard of or seen any Godard, this would appear to be an ordinary, unique, well-directed, well-told piece of work. For those who know Godard, but have not seen Vivre Sa Vie, the film would be wholly reminiscent of Godard’s style of filmmaking – the colours, the rapid cuts, the close-ups, the staring direct into the camera… There is a scene where the film’s protagonist, Betsy, monologues an in-depth history of the pawn shop, relevant because she owns and runs a pawn shop. This monologue plays over shots of Betsy going about her business, messing around and so on, which made me think of Godard’s viciously cynical monologue in Weekend (fans of Godard know the one).
Those viewers who have seen Vivre Sa Vie will not enjoy the film so much for the retelling of Godard’s story – it is undeniably fun and modern – but rather Thimijan’s extensive knowledge of the creative processes that went into making the film – it is as though he has watched it a multitude of times, over and over again, studying every crack and crevice. In She Lives Her Life, he simply puts this knowledge to some use. Of course, it would be unfair on the filmmaker to simply put this down as another copy of something original, because that would strip the filmmaker of his achievements – this film is a copy, but a good one, and one that shouldn’t be without merit. It does take art to copy something well, and that is what Thimijan has done here.
Read at Unsung Films: Contempt
Some of the most memorable moments in the film, for me, include the chapter in which Betsy (Karis Yanike) and Hannah sit in Betsy’s apartment together, having shot after shot of tequila. Here, Hannah lets Betsy in on the despicable behaviour of her boyfriend and her overall devastatingly bleak reality. This is when Betsy plays some music (the music in the film, by Jacob Gardner, is wonderful) and the room fills up with a song that could be a Brian Jonestown Massacre B-Side track. Here, Thimijan and cinematographer utilize two highly memorable shots – one is very Godard-like, as Hannah, black-eyed and beaten, stares straight at us, and the camera is held there for long periods. Then there is another shot, as the camera slides to the right of the sofa and focuses on Betsy, while Hannah reclines in the background.
The best scene is in chapter 11, when Betsy sits opposite the Philosopher (played by Thimijan) and they discuss concepts of time. Here, he discusses the hour glass – in the past, before clocks, time would be measured using this device. The idea of creating a measurement of time that, opposed to the hour glass, is infinite and circular, to as to avoid that terrible reminder of the passage of time, is fantastic. Also, the direction here is very interesting; the way that they exchange cameras, as though they are filming each other, and as focus goes from one character to the other.