Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Jean-luc Godard's Breathless -- Jimmy's Perspective


As a film student and a lover of cinema I'm always on the search for opportunities to study films that are considered part of the “canon.” Normally, when I watch these films, I'm not disappointed or if I don't find the entertainment value of them, I learn to appreciate what it was the films accomplished. In the case of Breathless, this just was not possible. I sat down with my popcorn in one hand and remote in the other, eager to see an amazing piece of cinema. As I watched the shaky camera and the jump cuts that the film was so famous for, I remained unimpressed. Godard was known for his almost anti-cinema stance in that he wanted to break the developing conventions that were gathering and choking artistic expression through film. A noble cause indeed, but breaking the rules simply because they are there doesn't necessarily make good cinema. Innovation may come from defiance but defiance doesn't always produce innovation.

Granted, Godard was working within the times of Cinema Verite and it was the style, but if he found it necessary to continually cut up the action (and I use “action” loosely) couldn't he have found it in his heart to violate the style of that movement as well? A question for the ages. While the film may not be specifically Verite, it has many of the elements including the natural lighting, outdoor setting, and unstable camera. The film shares many of these traits with Cinema Verite as well as its much more charming predecessor, Italian Neo-realism. I would take The Bicycle Thief and Umberto D. over this cinematic bastard-child any day.

Another qualm I have with the film is misleading classification if it. On the case and in reputation, Breathless is a suspense film. I, personally, find it difficult to be in a state of suspense watching a somewhat homely Frenchman beg for sex from a naïve college student over the course of 30 minutes. Sure there were shootings, a police chase, and fistfights but most of them were removed due to the gratuitous amount of continuity breaks.

The one good thing I found from the film is a brief education in the French Language. It is actually ironic that I chose this film to study for my French language class as the female lead is an American college student studying in France. The last line of the film is her character asking for a translation of the the dying words of Michel Poiccard so using this film to study French is convenient to say the least. Most of the situations within the film are difficult to relate to in my perspective as I don't gamble, shoot police, or steal cars. Despite these differences, many nouns and several small sayings popped out to me well enough to correct the subtitles as they blinked on and off the screen.

In short, I didn't enjoy the film and dislike it even more because I have late charges on the rental. If you have anything to say about the film or want to tell me I suck because I didn't like it leave a comment. Also, I'm noticing a distinct lack of Kate in the co-blogging effort. Hmmmm...

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