Tuesday, November 3, 2009

BREATHLESS (French) (1960)

“Modern movies begin here. With Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless in 1960. No debut film since Citizen Kane in 1942 has been as influential.”
-Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times

Penelope Houston, the doyen of English critics and ex-editor of Sight & Sound compared Godard’s this film to “throwing a hand grenade into the audience.” It was Orson Welles ‘Touch of Evil’ which Godard saw in 1958, influenced him to make ‘Breathless’, a seminal work of French New Wave. The film was co-written by Truffaut. Both Truffaut’s ‘The 400 Blows’ and Godard’s ‘Breathless’ regarded as two pillars of French New wave filmmaking and ushered a background for another decade of New Wave of individualistic personal cinema. Where Truffaut’s ‘400 Blows’ is more a product made by heart of an artist, Godard’s ‘Breathless’ was purely experimental head product made by innovative artist.

The film is like reading crazy intermingling of romantic Balzac meeting existential Camus. After shooting a cop, a small time crook and drifter who loves to sleep with beautiful dames escapes to Paris. He meets an American dame and soon she becomes his girlfriend. He convinces her to go Rome with him until cops trail him and discovered his true identity….It is not plot/story/screenplay which is important in Godard’s this film. It’s his experimental style of telling a story with whatever available collage and the way of presentation that made it avant garde film. It’s more a film about visual depth and study. Tarantino is a modern and almost successful cult example in this respect.

The look of the film was defined by breaking away from the conventional of film making of it’s time and made on a shoestring budget, using innovative jump cuts, overlapping dialogues, handheld camera work and shot at actual locations instead of studio sets. Infect I read that to give more detached, spontaneous and natural quality, Godard fed the actors their lines as scenes were being filmed.

There is huge contrast between the two lovers but if one looks closely it’s more like modern day lovers who treat love as a game, a drift or having nice time without being serious like traditional lovers portrayed in most of the films. Belmondo’s act is really absorbing and he looks more like a real stylish rogue in his slang mouth, cigarette dangling look. But more than him I like character of Patricia played so gracefully by Jean Seberg. She’s beauty with smart independent woman. Unlike street urchin and drifter sort of her boyfreind, her is the character more inclined towards refine and artistic taste about life. Like Faulkner, she’s lady loves to chose grief, if one has to choose grief and nothing. One of her line quite defines her- “I don’t know if I’m unhappy because I’m not free or I’m not free because I’m unhappy.”

By the early 60’s Godard was probably the most talk about director in the world and influenced filmmakers as diverse as Scorsese, Jarmusch, Satyajit Ray, Soderbergh, Tarantino and Wong Kar Wai. Godard was one of the prolific filmmaker who often made two or three films every year. In fact it’s revealing for most of us that he made total more than 80 feature films till 2006.

Mandatory for all the connoisseurs of cinema.

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