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Nouvelle Vague legend Anna Karina dies aged 79

Anna Karina worked with many of France's most celebrated film directors during a career which started in the 1960s.
Anna Karina worked with many of France's most celebrated film directors during a career which started in the 1960s. Reuters/Eric Gaillard

Tributes flowed on in Sunday for the Nouvelle Vague film star Anna Karina who died on Saturday from cancer at the age of 79. Her agent, Laurent Balandras, said she was with her husband Dennis Berry at the time of her death. 


"Goodbye beautiful Anna," said actress and singer Jane Birkin.

"Her life in films was intertwined with ours," added Cannes film festival boss Pierre Lescure. "Her smile showed us how to experience every emotion."

"Her sweet charm will always be with us," tweeted Gilles Jacob, a former president of the Cannes film festival.

Born Hanne Karen Blarke Bayer in 1940 in Solbjerg in Denmark, she fled in the late 1950s to Paris where she initially found work as a singer.

After drifting into modelling with Pierre Cardin and Coco Chanel, she followed the latter's advice to change her name.

Within two years of the rebrand, journalist turned film director Jean-Luc Godard offered her a part in À Bout de souffle.


Though she refused, he presented her with another role in his 1961 film Le Petit Soldat.

Barely out of her teens, she accepted. Marriage to Godard followed as well as parts in seven of his features including Bande à part and Alphaville.

With starring roles for directors such as Chris Marker, Agnes Varda, Jacques Rivette and Michel Deville she came to crystallise the unhinged insouciance of the era.

"She was certainly the face of the Nouvelle Vague," film critic Thierry Jousse told RFI.

Anna Karina married Jean-Luc Godard in 1961.
Anna Karina married Jean-Luc Godard in 1961. UPI-AFP ARCHIVES/AFP

"Other actors and actresses are associated with the Nouvelle Vague such as Jean- Claude Brialy or Jean-Pierre Léaud but I think Anna Karina will remain the incarnation of that time in the 1960s."

Though she exploded into prominence during that daredevil decade, she maintained the flourish into the 1970s.

After directing herself in the 1973 feature Vivre ensemble, Rainer Werner Fassbinder used her acting abilities three years later in Chinesisches Roulett. And she continued with cameos in films, TV movies and stage plays. There were also four novels as well as records and stage muscials.


"I would never have thought for a second that I'd be able to do all that," said Karina in 2017 as she reflected on her eclectic career.

"Obvioulsy when I came I wanted to live in Paris. I wanted to work or ... if that didn't work out ... perhaps go away with a troupe of travelling performers - you must remember I was very young.

"But I was very lucky that people took an interest in me quite quickly so that was extraordinary because I didn't know anyone at the beginning."

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