Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Classics: Breathless

Whenever talking to pretentious people, there are certain films always on their favorite films of all-time list. Mostly foreign films, along the lines of something like Amelie, or something from the ilk of Pedro Almodovar or Wong Kar Wai, and one of the more common films often given the top honor on such pretentious lists is the French New Wave classic, Jean Luc Godard's Breathless.

This film is often given a great deal of credit for its "innovative" use of the jump cut, inspiring the likes of Martin Scorsese in the next generation of filmmakers. Whether the film is "innovative" or not, it's sad to say that the story is nothing special.

The film is a gangster movie, clearly drawing inspiration from Hollywood's own film noirs. A gangster is being pursued by the police for murdering a cop and he must get out of Paris, but before he leaves he tries to convince an American newspaper saleswoman to join him as he flees to Italy. Ultimately, the story falls flat, never having any emotional connection and is a lot of the times being edgy simply to be, not because the edginess was needed to make the film more intriguing.

As can be gathered, I'm not the biggest fan of this film. The story never really intrigued me all that much, and at many times there were these long scenes of dialogue that ultimately built character, but had absolutely nothing to do with the plot and I was just sitting there looking at the time on my phone wondering when the film would move on to something more intriguing.

As for all of the "innovative" aspects of the film, such as the bazillion jump cuts and whatnot within, yes, the film did manage to inspire countless other filmmakers with its way of telling story in such a jumpy way, but in a great many ways, I believe that those weren't originally intended. While it ended up working in Godard's favor, you look, this was his first film he'd ever directed, whether it be feature length or a short. I mean, honestly there must have been mistakes (I had five million in the first film I ever made, and that is why it still has never seen the light of day), so perhaps what most consider to be the most brilliant aspect of Breathless in actuality was perhaps just a happy mistake, but then again the only person who knows the truth is Godard, and he's not telling.

At the end of the day, Breathless is not the best presentation of the French New Wave, you want that watch The 400 Blows. While Breathless is often cited as a classic, I believe it is merely a classic because it inspired countless filmmakers and that the film itself is not a really fantastic film. But then again, perhaps I'm just not pretentious enough to enjoy it? I don't know.

I give Breathless a D-!

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