mardi 3 février 2009

Anna Karina

CM: Could you tell us how you came to end up as a ... I mean you were born in Denmark and then you became a French star. How did that happen?

AK: I'm a fourth French [laughs]. I'm not a real Froggy but... Well I kind of figured.... Well... I came to France because I was a run-away girl. I went to France when I was sixteen-and-a-half because I had problems in my family like... so I came to France and I didn't have any money and all that so I made drawings on the road, on the streets to earn some money, but that didn't pay very well. So after a while I went to see the ...un curé, comment dire...a priest. On the Champs Elysees there's a kind of church, a Danish church, and I went to see the priest and I ask him if he could not find me a kind of room somewhere, and he did. So I lived there and I went around in Paris and suddenly I found a place where I thought was great and that was St Germain les Près. And then somebody asked me if I would like to make some pictures and I said, "Yes". I said, "Well, it might be dangerous..." at that time there was [...], you know, young girls to South America and all that. So I said, "well, if you come with a lot of people it will be okay." That was very naïve of course. But they did; they came with the hairdresser, with the assistants with the photographers and all the people arrived. So I did some pictures, and I was very excited because I earned some money to live, to eat. I was very skinny. I had one dress - a black dress I remember, and one pair of shoes - they were white. It was really not very.... So I did, it's becoming too long this story...

CM: Well, speed it up.

AK: So I did these pictures and I said, "Can I get my money" and the lady said, "No, we have to release the pictures in the papers before you get paid." And I said, "Well that's terrible." She said, "Well, we'll give you some pictures to show and we'll give you some addresses to go and see some people." So I went to see Le Journal Elle. You've head about that? And Madame Lazares was there with another lady called Coco Chanel and Coco Chanel said, "Who are you?" and I said, "I'm just me - I'm called Anne Karine" She said, "Well - you wanna be an actress?" I said, "Yes" and she said, "You're gonna call yourself Anna Karina." Et c'est Coco Chanel qui ma donné mon nom. Par hasard. Et moi je savais pas qui c'était, j'ai dit, "Oui Madame." I didn't know who she was. Mais c'est la vie hein? J'avais 17 ans. C'est normal.

CM: And then the legend has it, you'll tell us whether it's true or not, that Godard saw one of these pictures. Is that right?

AK: Well, afterwards, to earn my life I did a lot of pictures because I had to live, I had to eat. So he saw me in a publicity sample, for a soap. And then he asked me to come and see him so I got this letter and it said, "Would you like to come and see me? I want you to do a little thing in 'Breathless'." And I said, "What do I have to do?" He said, "You have to take your clothes off." So I said, "No, I'm not going to do that." So I went away. And then I forgot about this because you know... Three months later he asked me again and I didn't know so I had this rendezvous and so I came and ... this telegram, because you know at that time we didn't have all the stuff we have now... And it said, "Would you like to come and see Jean-Luc Godard chez ...". Et j'ai dit, "This time it might be for the great part, the first part, the leading role." So I said, "Well, this is a joke..." and I said to my friends, you know I had friends like Claude Brasseur, and [...] , and they said, "You must go and see this guy. He did a film. It's not out yet but everybody says it's fantastic." So I said, "What is this? It's Jean-Luc Godard. You must go and see this guy." So I went there and I he said to me, "Okay, come and sign this contract tomorrow." I said, "What? What is this?" I recognised his glasses, his dark glasses and I said, "I know I have to take my clothes off." He said, "No, no. It's a political film." "What!"
I cannot speak. I'm 18 years old. I would never know how to do that Monsieur. He said, "Don't you worry. You just have to do what I tell you to do." I said, "Okay. But what do we have to do?" He said, "You just come with your mother tomorrow and sign your contract." I said, "But I can't do that. I'm under-age and my mother's not in Paris and I have to send..." And he said, "Oh la la la la. Your mother, your mother. Ask your mother to take the airplane." So I said, "My mother, she never took an airplane. And she doesn't want to do that maybe." "Oh la la la."
So after a while I phoned my mother and said, "You've got to take the airplane to come and sign. And she did."

CM: One last question. Which is - Watching all your films over the last week...

AK: I've been a little bit too long, hein?

CM: No, not at all, not at all.

AK: That's because I haven't been in England for a long time.

CM: Watching the films over the last couple of weeks, what's really striking is how different they are, and how different you are in them. How did you prepare for each one? Was there a... How did Godard direct you?

AK: Godard doesn't really direct anybody you know. He's like, holding you, inventing everything. It's like a ballad. It's like something you... It just works.

CM: Okay, let's just take Alphaville. What did he tell you about Alphaville? What did he say?

AK: Well he never tells anybody anything. We never had a script. What I can say is that... You just saw the film. What was amazing, maybe not today but at that time, there was no light, you know, and he went to England to make a stage, is that what you say? He went to the labo...

CM: Laboratory.

AK: Laboratory. Because there was this new pellicule.

CM: Film. Kind of film.

AK: No; not film. Yes film. Pellicule. And he went to England to learn about this because it was very ... you just saw the film, as you can see it's very sensitive, .... Because what he liked about this was you didn't need to make a lot of light you know. There was no need for that. So he stayed for three months in London in the labotary, labortry

CM: Lab, lab. In the lab.

AK: Okay, in the lab. Let's be American. And he learned about that and he came back and he said to everybody, "I've got this new film to you know, without light. It's fantastic. You can film at night, you can film everywhere." And everyone said, "You must be joking, there's no need. This is full of shit. It's never going to work." And of course so we started the film with Eddie Constantine, with everybody, and Raoul Coutard, who was the chef of photography, he was not allowed to put any light. I mean sometimes you see an ampoule, how'd you say - a lamp? That's all. And there's no light. And he said, "I don't even want to go to the rushes. There will be nothing on the screen. He was sure of it." He was mad.
He was right, Jean-Luc, because, I don't know, I haven't seen the copy tonight, but normally you can really see people, even with no lights. So Jean-Luc was right. And of course he had a lot of ideas like that. But I guess... We had to make a lot of shots, because it was so sensitive, the film. So he was afraid of small problems on the screen. But it worked.

CM: Okay, thank you. Now we'll throw it open to the audience. Over there.

Q: In all the films that you did with Godard was there any moment where you said, "No I will not do this, it's crazy, it's not going to work?"

AK: No, because we never knew before what we were going to do. We had the dialogue five minutes before, so we were so involved with learning the text that we're not even asking what's going on. (laughter)

Q: Was Godard curious about other directors?

AK: Sometimes he was very jealous, yes. (laughter). But most of the time with Visconti he was very proud. Because Visconti is a fantastic director too.

Q: Did he ask you about what Visconti was like to work with? Was he curious? Was he a big fan of Visconti?

AK: Oh, a very big fan. No he didn't...Jean-Luc doesn't ask that kind of question. He is very respectful when he admired somebody like Visconti. But on the other hand sometimes, he didn't like me too much to, I'm talking about when I was very young of course, he didn't like to work too much with the other directors, but well I did because I haven't done only seven films in my life. I've done about 67, or something like that, plus the TV and the theatre plays. Well, Jean-Luc is somebody who is very respectful, and he loves what's beautiful. It's the most important thing I guess. You cannot be jealous of something... I mean what's beautiful is beautiful, you like it. When you love art, you're like that.

Q: (In French). How did it feel to be treated as a doll and a marionette?

AK: D'abord, j'adore les poupées et les marionettes. I love it. (laughter) But I really feel like a woman too and I think that... Bon, vous comprenez l'Anglais ou pas, par ce que vous parlais Français? Probablement mieux que moi. Non non. I loved it. I really felt like a woman, and I mind to be sometimes a marionette, sometimes a doll, sometimes a chipie, sometimes somebody else. That's the art of an actress. Or and actor. It's not a problem. Maybe you should see all the films of Jean-Luc Godard - you've only seen two you told me - before you make a judgement. Because I think he's one of the directors who has done the most variation. And done the possibilities for the actors to give all kind of sentiment.

Q: What was it like to work on Fassbinder on Chinese Roulette?

AK: Oh it was a very exciting two years. He was a little bit down at that point, but, did you see his film? Did you like it?

Q: Yes.

AK: I think it's a film that's got some kind of ...It's very strange but it's a good film. And well it was kind of the same thing. We had the dialogue about five minutes before we were shooting, and so we went to Cannes. And we stayed away about three weeks and then I kind of got bored, because I've got to learn German because nobody speaks French. I went to the village by foot and I bought a lot of books for kids about five or six years old, because I said, "Well this is terrible, this is tisch..." And then they started to like me because I wanted to learn German. After three weeks I spoke German, so I speak German in the film. It's true.

Q: These days are you singing any songs from the period of 'Sous le soleil, exactement.'?

AK: Yes, in the concerts we're doing right now yes. It's a song by Serge Gainsbourg.

Q: Was there one film you most enjoyed making with Godard?

AK: That's a good question because, actually, doing a film with Jean-Luc was always a great pleasure and they're all so different, so which one did I enjoy the most? Maybe, 'A Woman is a Woman.' Because it was one of the first ones. But really I cannot say, because they're all so different. He seems so serious, but you always had great fun. You know he was a big sportif. He liked to run - he could do everything better than anybody else. Oh yes it's true. He would say to me, "Not good enough." I would say, "Well, I had vertigo." And he would say, "Go on. Climb up there." I said, "Really, Jean-Luc, you know." And everything that Jean-Paul would do in the film, Jean-Luc would do it ten times better. No it's really true. The only thing they had in common was to read l'Equipe, the....

CM: The sports newspaper.

AK: Which I love myself because my grandfather, he loved sport too and when I was a kid he would take me to the games. I know everything about football. And everything about rugby. Yeah yeah.

CM: I should say that Godard gave a very limited number of interviews at Cannes about Éloge de l'amour this year, and one of them was to l'Equipe. Which is a hilarious interview actually.

Q: Do you feel you could have played the part Bardot played in 'Le Mépris'?

AK: No, that was for Brigitte. Non non. But he used a lot of the dialogues from our private lives. Smart guy, hein?

Q: Was there any different preparation for 'Made in USA' where there's slightly more action, where you were playing a secret agent?

AK: Let's keep it secret.

Q: Was there a script before the film started?

AK: Non. But there was a script inside Jean-Luc Godard's head. But we knew about the story. He would say, "Well, it's so and so and so." Then he would say, "But." We had the dialogues just before. He would write it every day. He had that kind of structure in his head, and a kind of story, and probably the dialogue too.

Q: Which is the favourite song you sang in a Godard film?

AK: 'Jamais, je ne.... jamais je te... t'aimerais toujours, Oh mon amour.' Oh we've had too much wine (laughter). It's a song I'm singing in Pierrot le Fou. I'm singing, 'Maline de chance, et jamais je ne te dirai que je t'aimerais toujours. Oh mon amour.' Je l'ai dit!

Q: What was your working relationship with Jean-Paul Belmondo, for it seems to be such a rapport on the screen.

AK: It was love. But love, you know, like, give me your hand...Love.

Q: What are your feelings about the films he made after he worked with you?

AK: What a bad question. I hate it. No, no. What I'm very happy about is that today all your young people here are still coming to see a film of Jean-Luc Godard, and with me and that is really great. That's a present, that's a cadeau. It's something that I appreciate a lot and I love it. Because it means we didn't do that for nothing and it's still living and that's great. That's fantastic.

CM: And we appreciate a real lot that you came here tonight, Anna Karina. Thank you very much indeed.

Anna Karina was interviewed by Colin MacCabe at the National Film Theatre on Thursday 21 June 2001. Trouvé ici.