Anna Karina, who passed away two days ago at the age of 79, is widely recognised as one of the most prominent faces of the French New Wave. The muse of one of the 1960s cinematic movement's most prominent directors, Jean-Luc Godard, she played an astonishing variety of characters in only around six years. From the innocent girl fallen in with hooligans in Bande a part (1964) to the mischievous stripper in Une femme est une femme (1960) to the defiant prostitute in Vivre sa vie (1962), her beautiful face expressed complexity in these characters that went well beyond those simple descriptions.
No wonder Godard was so entranced. The film critic turned filmmaker chose to show her weeping face in close-up in a famous scene from Vivre sa vie in which she watches another woman crying in Carl Dreyer's Jeanne d'Arc. What a way to draw attention to another film and to make a point about how emotions and experience are communicated through film. Anna Karina had the face and the talent for it.
After her breakup with Godard, he made movies about her and she went on to direct her own films and write novels. She remains primarily celebrated for her work with Godard, though, but that's no dishonour. The combination of mesmerising beauty and sensitive performance is a supreme rarity and no-one could ever duplicate what she did.