Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire
Palmer's film is that rare concert doc that isn't for established fans only.
It is not reassuring when your father tells you, "Books are our only true friends." Where does that leave you--or your mom, or your brother? And yet what he says may be worth hearing. Hanna, the heroine of "Set Me Free," is a 13-year-old growing up in 1963 in Montreal. Her father is distant, disturbed, incapable of supporting his family and blames everyone but himself. Her mother is meek and suicidal. It's up to Hanna to find her own way in life, and that's what she does, at the movies.
Art can be a great consolation when you are a lonely teenager. It speaks directly to you. You find the right movie, the right song, the right book, and you are not alone. Books and movies are not our only friends, but they help us find true friends and tell them apart from the crowd.
One day in the rain, Hanna (Karine Vanasse) sneaks into a theater and sees Jean-Luc Godard's "My Life to Live" (1962), where even the title is significant. It stars Anna Karina as an independent woman in Paris who leaves her husband and works as a prostitute to support herself. She keeps a distance from her clients; cigarettes form a wall between her and the world, and there is a famous shot where as a man embraces her, she sullenly blows out smoke.
Not the character you would choose as a role model for a 13-year-old girl. But Hanna is unhappy and confused. She has just had her first period and does not quite understand it. Her father is cold to her mother, her brother and herself, but then turns on the charm. There is no money in the household; her father (Miki Manojlovic) calls himself a writer but has published nothing, her mother (Pascale Bussieres) works as a seamstress, and the pawnbroker knows the kids by name. In this confusion, Hanna finds encouragement in the independent woman of the movie, who holds herself aloof, who is self-contained, who lets no man hurt her.