Wannabe Francophiliac’s musings part 3. AKA Godard’s 1st film. Breathless. A bout de Souffle.

Starring Jean-Paul Belmondo as a low-life who thinks himself as Humphrey Bogart and Jean Seberg, who plays the Katherine Hepburn-esque girl he lusts after, Breathless is close to half a century old but its still full of life.

In the interim before I posted this, I also caught Alphaville which I felt was pretty tortuous. I sort of felt like I was a subject in Alphaville actually. I like certain sequences but found it really hard to accept the visage of the imaginary dystopia it portrayed. So it was with a slight trepidation that I approached Breathless. Thankfully, it didn’t disappoint.

I have to say I have a particular dislike for the lead character, who is a louse, a parasite. He is a car thief, a burglar and an ass. Yet, he pulls the girl, the free spirited American journalist who lives via naivete. Why do “independent” women feel this urge to fuck the “rebel”? Inexplicable. Still, at least she finally woke up towards the end.

The film itself is pretty enjoyable. Belmondo’s character, Michel Poiccard, steals a car and then speeds around in it, only to get noticed by the police. He then kills a cop and goes into hiding in Paris whilst he also tries to seduce Seberg’s innocent Patricia Franchini. Patricia isn’t sure why the hell she likes him so she lets shit happen so she can find out the obvious. Ok, she’s American so her French isn’t quite up to scratch and she’s new in town, sort of at least, so she’s keen to have some fun but Michel isn’t particularly attractive. I guess girls just like rogues, just that sometimes they blur the rogues with the assholes.

The pacing is pretty quick so you’re never lost on the action. Its also interspersed with random musings on love and lust. Francois Truffaut appears in mid-film as some sort of writer who spews out philosophical aphorisms. The heart of the film is French but it lurches towards Hollywood. I felt like it was a n homage/assessment of Hollywood’s great romance films but it also introduced something new.

The music is brilliant as is the visual style. The editing, the cuts, the screen closing in on important but small figures soon to play a greater role, its quite engaging and easy on the eye. This is particularly apparent in how Godard shows the police closing in on Michel. From a newspaper photo of the slain cop, to the screen closing in on the inspector who is chasing him till, you get the sense that the capture would be inevitable.

I can see the “stuff” laden within Breathless that has spilled out into cinema today. The references to Hollywood and America, the characters, it almost feels like a proto Tarantino film. The thin plot might be a bit of a pity in a sense, as I wished there was more to it. Yet, given the title, I’m sure that was also the intent. This was a film made for an instant, an evocation of a mood, a feeling, a flirtation, a brief romance or a quick shag. It didn’t quite leave me gasping but I have rubbed my lips ala Belmondo/Bogart on more than one occasion today.

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