French New Wave icon Anna Karina dies at 79

In this file photo taken on October 18, 2017, French actress Anna Karina reacts as she gives a master class on October 18, 2017 in Lyon, central-eastern France, during the 9th edition of the Lumiere film festival. — AFP pic
In this file photo taken on October 18, 2017, French actress Anna Karina reacts as she gives a master class on October 18, 2017 in Lyon, central-eastern France, during the 9th edition of the Lumiere film festival. — AFP pic

PARIS, Dec 15 — Danish-French actress Anna Karina, muse of New Wave director Jean-Paul Godard, has died of cancer at the age of 79, her agent told AFP today.

Karina, who epitomised Sixties chic with her elfin features and big khol-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 modelling career before being spotted by Godard while walking along the Champs-Elysees.

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 best actress at the Berlin film festival for his 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 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. — AFP

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