Film Pulse Score

she-live-her-life-poster-20140127Release Date: TBD
MPAA Rating: NR
Film Pulse Score: 6/10

Heavily influenced by Jean-Luc Godard’s Vivre Sa Vie, Mark Thimijan’s She Lives Her Life proves to be an interesting and visually pleasing take on the 1962 classic French New Wave film.  More of a re-imagining than a straight up remake, the film captures much of the essence of the original, but deviates in plot and sets out to create its own unique story.

The film explores the day-to-day life of Betsy, played by Karis Yanike, in twelve vignettes.  Where Godard’s film explores the life of a woman descending into a life of prostitution, Thimijan’s lead works as a landlord and pawnshop owner.  As the title suggests, the movie simply follows Betsy around living her life, which sounds pretty dry, and it is, but the strong visuals make up for that in spades.

Many of the specific camera techniques and story sequences are directly lifted from Vivre Sa Vie, but they’re done in such a way that feel genuine to this specific film.  This isn’t the type of homage that is simply haphazardly thrown in for good measure- it’s all done for a reason.  The Godard throwbacks are all part of the story and work well within this narrative.  From the letter-writing scene to the awkward dance scene, it’s all here, and it’s all done in a relatively effective way.

That isn’t to say that She Lives Her Life is a flawless work of art honoring a great filmmaker.  It suffers from the same issues that befall many micro-budget films.  The sound editing is rough in some areas, the acting is inconsistent, and the music selections are generic and uninspired.

That being said, this is still an impressive looking film considering it was created with a shoestring budget.  The first few chapters are in black and white, which look fantastic and truly capture that French New Wave look.  When it becomes colorized it doesn’t look quite as good, however the cinematography is still top notch.  I rewatched Vivre Sa Vie after seeing this film and it’s impressive to see some of the more subtle aspects that Thimijan brought into it.

Unlike most remakes that seem to be constantly flooding the market, this is clearly a film that acts more as a love letter than a talentless cash grab.  The flip side to that however, was that it never really felt like Thimijan was bringing his own voice into the mix.  It’s an interesting experiment to mirror your story exactly to that of another film, both in structure and visuals, but it’s tough to look at it as anything more than that- an experiment.

For the die-hard Godard fans out there I can see this as a very polarizing movie.  Some will applaud it for truly capturing and honoring what made him a great director, while others will lash out against it for being a little too on the nose.  For me, the strong visuals and well-developed lead is what makes this a recommendation.

Thimijan took all the best aspects of Vivre Sa Vie and repackaged them in a new form hitting all the right beats.  There’s a complex lead, some great cinematography, and a slow but compelling story, but I couldn’t help but think about why I would watch this over simply putting on the original.  Mark Thimijan definitely has the right eye for cinematography though, and I’ll be very interested to see what he comes out with next.