The iconic Danish-French actresses who rose to prominence in the 1960s and became a symbol of French youth, has passed away

Anna Karina, the face of the French New Wave cinema, has passed away at age 79. According to a representative, Karina passed away from Cancer on December 14th in Paris. France’s Culture Minister, Franck Riester, tweeted: “Today, French cinema has been orphaned. It has lost one of its legends.”

The iconic actress rose to prominence in the 1960s starring in Le Petit Soldat, Une Femme Est Une Femme, and Pierrot le Fou. She arrived in Paris in 1958, working as a model and cabaret singer. She modeled for Coco Chanel who persuaded her to change her name from Hanne Bayer to Anna Karina. She was cast in the Jean Seberg movie, Breathless but turned down the role because it involved nudity. Karina ultimately landed the lead in the film, Le Petit Soldat.

Le Petit Soldat was initially banned by the French Information Ministry because of its ambivalent attitude to the Algerian war. Its release date was delayed by three years but it became a cinematic success. In her second movie, Une Femme est Une Femme, Karina played a stripper, and it won her the best actress award at the Berlin film festival. It also created one of the genre’s most classic quotes, “Angela, tu es infame.” (“Angela, you are awful.”) “Non, je suis une femme.” (“No, I am a woman.”)

Karina was the poster child of the French New Wave. A muse to Jean-Luc Godard (the Godfather of the genre) she stared in many of his films and the pair eventually married. They divorced in 1965 and Karina remarried three times but she stated that Godard was “the love of my life. We had something very special that you couldn’t get away from. It was magnetic.”

Karina continued to act through the 1970s and ’80s, she landed a few bit-roles in the ’90s and 00’s but it’s her movies from the 1960s that have defined her career. In 1964’s Bande à Part we see Karina burst into a spontaneous, synchronized dance with two others. This famous scene was the inspiration for Tarantino’s dance sequence in Pulp Fiction.

Beyond acting, Karina continued to enjoy a successful career as a singer. She worked with Serge Gainsbourg recording the popular French hit, “Sous Le Soleil Exactement”. She also wrote four books but is best remembered as the darling of French cinema.

Check out the trailer below for Anna Karina’s 1961 hit, Une Femme est Une Femme.

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