Features and Columns · Movies

A Tribute to Anna Sten, Anna Karina, and the Doomed Rebel of ‘Nana’

Here’s a tribute to the various iterations of ‘Nana,’ and the two Anna’s who played her best.
Anna Karina Nana
By  · Published on July 24th, 2020

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today’s spotlight is a video essay on Emile Zola’s Nana and two women who portrayed the character.

Every decade has its Nana. There are numerous film adaptations of Emile Zola’s novel, a cautionary tale of a beautiful, deviant woman who meets a sticky end. The character even appears, more ordinary but just as desirous, as Nana Kleinfrankenheim (played by Anna Karina) in Jean-Luc Godard’s Vivre Sa Vie.

Her presence on-screen is such that (in French-speaking countries) “a nana” is synonymous with a babe, a doll, a young woman, a girlfriend. And yet, of all the takes on this role, the performances by Anna Karina in Vivre Sa Vie and Anna Sten in the 1934 version of Nana stand out, leaving two very different impressions on the history of cinema.

The following video essay is narrated in the first person by its creator, Mark Rappaport, and the imagined voice of Anna Sten herself. As the video opens, Rappaport recognizes Sten while watching Soldier of Fortune and falls down a rabbit hole. And, really, we’ve all been there. You’re innocently watching a movie, and suddenly there are twenty tabs open and half of them are IMDb trivia pages.

The video replicates the collapsing sinkhole of casual research: how faces begin to blur together, and connections materialize. The video is part retrospective on Sten’s career, part meditation on the differently doomed iterations of Nana. Ultimately, this is an essay that takes the rhetorical scenic route. And it’s worth it.

You can watch Anna/Nana/Nana/Anna” here:

Who made this?

This video essay, by Mark Rappaport, is a selection for “The Video Essay” section at FILMADRID, in collaboration with MUBI. The section is non-competitive and “offers a platform and visibility the video essay deserves.” The nine selected were exhibited on MUBI’s cinema publication, Notebook. You can follow MUBI’s YouTube account here.

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Meg Shields is the humble farm boy of your dreams and a senior contributor at Film School Rejects. She currently runs three columns at FSR: The Queue, How'd They Do That?, and Horrorscope. She is also a curator for One Perfect Shot and a freelance writer for hire. Meg can be found screaming about John Boorman's 'Excalibur' on Twitter here: @TheWorstNun. (She/Her).