Thursday, August 05, 2010

Moofies - Breathless/À bout de souffle (1960)

EXPECTATIONS: Jean-Luc Godard is referred to so much by film snobs and directors as this god of cinema, but for some reason I have never seen any of his work. Breathless is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a re-mastered cinema run, so we decided to go and see what Godard was all about on the big screen.

REALITY: This is fantastic. I'm sure plenty of people reading this are saying, "Yeah, no shit, genius", but for me, in 2010, knowing nothing about Godard, this was a really enjoyable and interesting film.

Right from the start Breathless feels very guerrilla and experimental. The star of the film steals a car and then talks directly to the camera as he's driving. He doesn't talk directly to the camera again for the entire film. There are a lot of jump cuts and conversations that have been very obviously manipulated by the film maker. Godard is making his presence known throughout, destroying the illusion that this is some kind of reality we are watching.

There are many references to image and how we are reflected in image, or how images reflect ourselves. Patricia (Jean Seberg) compares herself to a Renoir print, asking "Am I as pretty as her?". Michel (Jean-Paul Belmondo) compares himself to Bogey. His entire persona is that of a cinema tough guy. He is constantly buying newspapers and looking at the world through the lens of media.

After watching this at the cinema I bought the DVD and watched it again. I think a few more viewings will be necessary before I can pick up on all the themes that Godard is trying to explore, but at the same time as being brain food, the film is very enjoyable. The Paris streets look great, the stars look great, there is a lot of humour throughout, and there is a simple but captivating plot involving the Michel being chased by detectives because he murdered a police officer.

If the rest of the French Nu-Wave cinema is anything like this, then I've got a library of excellent films ahead of me.


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