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stephskie67's Movie Reviews (7)

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4/4

 

Breathless ( Bout de souffle ) 
French New Wave Meets Hollywood Crime Genre

Directed by Jean-Luc Godard and written by Francois Truffaut, Breathless
was Godard's first feature-length work, and one of the earliest, most influential of the French New Wave movies. The literal French translation, bout de souffle, meaning "at breath's end", makes more sense as the film comes to a close. As well as heralding the New Wave genre, Breathless gives a heartfelt nod to American crime movies with Jean-Paul Belmondo as Michel Poiccard, a would-be gangster, pridefully modelling himself on Humphrey Bogart, assuming his mannerisms and adopting a devil-may-care attitude at all times.
After shooting a policeman, Michel goes on the run (but not really a desperate run - he's too 'cool' for that ), turning to his American girlfriend, Patricia Franchini, played by Jean Seberg, for intimacy, money, and support in dodging the police. Michel comes across as a somewhat misogynistic, selfish, narcissistic, nihilistic young man who seems to care little for the results of his actions and yet there is a subtle vulnerability and sadness about his bravado and one gets the strong sense that he is still 'searching for himself'; his cutting remarks and cynicism perhaps covering up his basic insecurity. Jean makes an excellent counterpart in that, while appearing to be in love with Michel, wants to foster her own independence and not be 'dependent on a man'. There is much to love about this very 'French' film, including the classic silences after one or other of the lovers has declared something fairly life changing e.g. Patricia telling Michel she is pregnant and him retorting (after a lengthy silence) that he needs to make a phone call, or go see someone. Michel and Jean are in love but, for both, it is sometimes more of a nuisance rather than an exhilaration; Michel's feelings are neatly summed up when he says to a friend "and to make matters worse I love her".

Jean-Luc Godard's tribute to Hollywood and American culture is groundbreaking and the casual promiscuity and crime risqu for the times. The fun, jazzy soundtrack, quick camera cuts and deliberately unpolished cinematography create a certain sense of urgency as well as 'lightness' as Michel ducks and dives to avoid being caught. Apparently Godard used plenty of improvised script throughout and this 'stream of consciousness' gives it a 'breathless ' feel. Michel's character puts one in mind of an 'angry young man' or a 'rebel without a cause', the end of his crime spree being poignant and pointless. It is the end of the movie that I liked least but I suppose it was inevitable and even cleverly ironic as Michel had voiced his disgust with 'cowards' throughout the film. I would recommend 'Breathless' as it is truly unique, inventive, radical and influential and certainly a grand achievement for a first time Director.


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