Thursday, August 2, 2012

Let's Talk About Anna Karina

Marilyn Monroe is Clown Shoes: Stop It
By Robert Patrick

Anna Karina is a touchstone of French New Wave (Nouvelle Vague, for those of you who are brooding elitists and clerical mavens). The slight, doe-eyed symbol of Jean-Luc Godard’s affection is forever branded in monochrome stills as a foxy chain-smoker with the lettuce of Clara Bow. Karina’s flippant mane was later worn by the foot herself, Uma Thurman, in Quentin Tarantino’s jazzy, sardonic Pulp Fiction. That maintained mop of hair Karina sported on her proud dome ensnared viewers into a celluloid bear trap.

Karina was a music box ballerina with a smoking gun and the heart of a maimed lioness. Marlene Dietrich was steely, cool and aloof. Audrey Hepburn was wiry, frail and steamrolled with mascara. Marilyn Monroe was an hourglass smeared with lipstick. Karina, though, balanced her cigarette like a baton and dusted her fingertips over sticky coffee tables.
You decide who wore it better.
She was an existentialist’s muse. A woman who padded her lungs with cigarette smoke and wore frumpy sweaters with fuzz balls. A woman who single handedly out smoked an entire circuit of New York cocktail lounges in the 1960s.

So why the deal with that cooing, salacious Marilyn Monroe?

Why is her porcelain mug branded onto stamps and lacquered onto walls? Because she pursed her lips and mewed, slunk around with serpentine abandon, and struck walls with the wingspan of her eyelashes. Maybe for her time, if you were a hammered Charlie who used his drunken hips to play pinball with bar stools, you would be smitten over the curled locks belonging to MM. Today, I have no idea why teenage girls fawn over the star’s hushed whispers and flighty, staccato speech.

Unless every seventeen year-old girl is a reincarnated JFK.

And the fact that the infinitely talented Michelle Williams had to dumb herself down to play the vodka inundated, lolling star has me rolling my eyes like a struck cue ball. If teenagers and twenty-somethings want to use their short bones to claw at an actress, why not pick Myrna Loy?

Norma Shearer, who was smug and sexual rather than na├»ve and crestfallen, is even a better choice. The Cliff’s Notes say that if you’re a girl, 15-30, and like the carbonated, fuzzy-brained Marilyn Monroe, you likely suck. You’re not a 1950s businessman with a perversely agape maw, so there is no reason you should be pining over Norma Jean – that means you, too, Elton John. Get your shit together.
Old school is foxy as fuck.
 At least the posthumous popularity of Audrey Hepburn is generating interest in someone other than the boggle-eyed Norma Jean. I don’t really mind when I see girls dotting their speech with compliments for the fair-browed Hepburn (though I mentioned her before in a semi-negative light). Sheathed in gloves, each one of Hepburn’s hands, as if a skewed liberty scale, weighed a cigarette and a cocktail glass. But she was still smart as a whip (ever see a blind Marilyn Monroe antagonize Alan Arkin in a dark room? I didn’t think so).

So, my advice to you is to go meet cute with Anna Karina in a smoke plumed 1960’s France. Go waltz with a coy Audrey in a Cary Grant misadventure. Watch Norma Shearer clink her teeth together in searing manipulation. Adhere to Myrna Loy’s slicked back buoyancy. Just shut the fuck up with this Marilyn Monroe garbage.

Go fourth, young person, and understand life!

Robert Patrick has worked for The East County Herald and Alpine Sun newspapers. He has contributed to The San Diego Reader and is currently the food reviewer at The East County Californian. He is part of the San Diego Film Critics Society and runs a website, far less active than the one you're on, called He is also a popular sports expert (Boston University women's ice hockey). Robert failed to make it into the fencing portion of the Olympics this year. He instead earned gold in forcing Tom to publish his work on this site.


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