VIVRE SA VIE — TABLEAU 5

[Be warned — from this point on in my tableau-by-tableau march through Godard's Vivre Sa Vie there are spoilers which might affect your enjoyment of the film if you haven't seen it.]

The film's fifth tableau is titled “The boulevards — The first man — The room”.  It begins with shots, from a moving vehicle and on tracks, of streets where prostitutes are plying their trade.  Nana, walking along one of these streets, is approached by a man who asks if she's available.  She says yes and takes him to a cheap hotel room.

She closes the curtains of the first-floor room, which looks out onto the street, and prepares to have sex with the man.  Nana has committed herself to a life of prostitution.

The room is shabby but clean.  The man is not unattractive and behaves well at first, giving Nana more money than they've agreed on because she doesn't have change for his 5000-franc note.

But then, when he embraces her, he tries to kiss her, and she resists this, withholding the one intimacy prostitutes traditionally refuse to sell.  (This reminds one of Goethe's great line — “The kiss is the ultimate sexual experience.”)

The tableau ends with Nana's struggle against the kiss still in progress.  She has been cool and businesslike up to this point — now she looks disgusted and afraid.  This dynamic is part of Nana's character as presented in the film.  She seems a bit dim, a bit cold about selling herself, but also pathetic.  The pathos is all the more powerful for this — she's not a whore with a heart of gold, just a rather ordinary woman of no special distinction, beyond her good looks.  She seems incapable of estimating where her path in life will actually lead her, morally and emotionally.  This enables us to preserve our pity for her.

Next:

VIVRE SA VIE — TABLEAU 6

Previously:

VIVRE SA VIE — TABLEAU 4

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