Whilst there will never be a consensus regarding who was the most important or influential director of the French New Wave, there’s no debate about who was the leading lady. Anna Karina is best-known for her work with Jean-Luc Godard. She became his muse, starring in many of his films including Alphaville, A Woman is a Woman, Pierrot le Fou and Bande à Part. She also featured in a host of other films, including arguably her best performance in Jacques Rivette’s The Nun.
After at first refusing to take her vows as a nun, Suzanne (Karina) eventually becomes resigned to her fate. Despite not having a calling, she tries to make the best of it given the lack of any other options. Her first Mother Superior (Micheline Presle) is kindly and sympathises with Suzanne’s plight, but when she dies is replaced by the cruel and malicious Sister Sainte-Christine (Francine Bergé). Things look up when she’s moved to another convent, but Mme de Chelles’ (Liselotte Pulver) attentions aren’t purely sisterly.
Due to the subject matter, and after an exemption to play at the Cannes festival in 1966, The Nun was banned for almost two years. Whilst it might look tame now, Rivette played up to the controversy. It’s one of his most ‘straight’ films and sticks fairly religiously to Denis Diderot’s 18th century novel of the same name. The Nun is all about Karina’s performance and she’s given free reign to absorb herself in the melodrama. It’s a strange film but one which is well worth your time.
La Scandaleuse – New 30 min retrospective documentary, interviews with Anna Karina, Georges Kiejman, Helene Frappet, Jacqueline Moreau and Guillaume Nicloux
The sumptuous 4k restoration of The Nun is released on DVD, Blu-ray and EST by Studiocanal on 17 September.