French New Wave icon Anna Karina dies at 79

Published 15.12.2019 18:09
Updated 20.12.2019 02:23
Anna Karina smiles during the 13th Pusan International Film Festival in Busan, Oct. 8, 2008. AFP Photo
Anna Karina smiles during the 13th Pusan International Film Festival in Busan, Oct. 8, 2008. (AFP Photo)

Danish-French actress Anna Karina, the muse of New Wave director Jean-Paul Godard, has died of cancer at the age of 79, her agent told AFP on Sunday. Karina, who epitomized Sixties chic with her elfin features and large, kohl-rimmed blue eyes, starred in seven films made by her ex-husband Godard, including "Pierrot Le Fou."

"Anna died yesterday in a Paris hospital of the effects of cancer," her agent Laurent Balandras told AFP, adding that she passed away in the company of her fourth husband, American director Dennis Berry.

"Today, French cinema has been orphaned. It has lost one of its legends," Culture Minister Franck Riester tweeted. Karina was still a teenager when she hitchhiked to Paris from her native Denmark to try to become an actress.

She developed a successful modeling career before being spotted by Godard while walking along the Champs-Elysees avenue. Godard offered her a nude scene in "Breathless," his first and most famous film, but she refused.

They were already a couple when, at barely 21, she won the best actress at the Berlin film festival for his “Une Femme Est Une Femme” ("A Woman is a Woman") in 1961. "We loved each other a lot," Karina told AFP in an interview in Paris in March 2018. "But it was complicated to live with him," she added. "He was someone who could say to you, 'I am going to get some cigarettes' and come back three weeks later."

She later slipped behind the camera herself to make drama film "Vivre Ensemble," a romance between a history teacher and a free-spirited young woman that ends in drugs and domestic violence. Karina also had some success as a singer, recording "Sous Le Soleil Exactement" with Serge Gainsbourg.

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