Anna (1967)

Directed by Pierre Koralnik
Modcinema DVD-R
Buy it from Modcinema!

Whereupon Anna Karina walks around while wearing glasses for 90 minutes and Serge Gainsberg discovers the best drum sounds ever. What more do you need?

Anna makes my head swim. That is to say, for an obscure french TV movie, the film’s applicable parallels are constant and overwhelming. There’s the visual experimentation of Vera Chytilová’s Daisies. The psychedelic abandonment of Os Mutantes. The portraiture snapshots of Michael Sarne’s Joanna. I could go on. But I won’t. For while Anna may appear to be a mere junction for late-1960s aesthetic mores, it’s also happily aloof. This is a pathos-filled musical-comedy which reunites Anna Karina and Jean Claude Brialy from Jean-Luc Godard’s Une Femme Est Une Femme, blesses the world with some of Serge Gainsberg’s most articulate pop songs, and climaxes with a death-murder-suicide fantasy sequence. Every frame is non-reality. Every frame is bizarre.

Serge (Brialy) is a fashion photographer. Anna (yep) is a comic book illustrator. He’s a touchy obsessive. She’s a bored romantic. After snapping a chance photograph in a train station, Serge becomes infatuated with Anna’s face. To say the least. And so, Serge, with the “help” of confidant Serge Gainsberg, roams the cityscapes, nite-clubs, and art events in search of his idealized mystery woman. Sounds simple.

Yet, woven throughout this loose narrative are jutting sequences of hallucinogenic battlefields, zipper-clothed philosophizing models, and Marianne Faithful in a museum (perhaps on loan from Godard’s Made In USA?). And of course, the songs. Some further the plot (“Sous le Soleil Exactement”), while others do not (“Roller Girl”). Some are requisite Dirty Gainsberg (“J’Etais Fait Pour Les Sympathies”), while others exude sonic beauty (“Un Jour Comme Un Autre”). All are delivered with appropriate amounts of orchestral thickness, 60s hooks, and heavenly/gruff vocals courtesy Karina/Brialy. So what’s the catch?

Anna is artsy for artsy’s sake. But don’t sweat it. Celebrate it. While the film may waffle at times, mostly due to the repetition of Brialy’s wanderings, that concise empowerment of distinct 1960s creativity always outweighs the adversities. For instance, the photography — it’s stunning. The camera weaves, parlays, and invades, never catching its breath, but always achieving elegance. And wallowing in depth. Lots of depth. When combined with the songs, the somber optimism, and the absurd, non-cerebral fun, Anna can only be accepted on its own terms. As it should be.

Besides, there’s nothing wrong with watching Anna Karina walk around in glasses for 90 minutes. Beats Le Petit Soldat any day of the week.

On DVD-R terms, this thing looks fantastic. The full-frame print is clean, acute, and bursting with color. The mono sound is huge. There’s some occasional ghosting, but that’s a given. All of that aside, the real cause for hi-fives is that Modcinema offers the only available print of Anna with English subtitles. Now, when Anna says, “It must have been an erotic dream,” we know she means business.

Nope. But, I’d highly recommend the soundtrack. It’s terrific. I bought my copy at Amoeba, shortly after moving to LA.

Anna is for vintage French cinema addicts, experimental enthusiasts, and people who generally dislike musicals. Like me. If you’re in the same boat, then get to it — a satisfied evening awaits.