Friday, May 24, 2013

Breathless (1960)


When I feel a bit less inspired I try and find films that inspire me, and that sometimes means going back.  Breathless by Jean Luc Godard is one of those films.  I did see it while in film school, but I've grown to admire it more and more, and after seeing it again the movie reverberates through me in what good cinema is.    For those who cannot get over Godard's style I understand that it may not be your cup of tea, but Godard is one of the more innovative directors of the era then most.  In each film he pushes cinema a bit further in what he thinks it should be.  Sometimes it's entertainment, but most times there is a message.  In a way it's a feeling, a response he wants to get out of his audience, and Breathless certainly does that.  From its cinematography to its editing the film has a feeling of restlessness.  Even in the sequences where the characters talk about nothing in particular.  To Godard these scenes are important, and it contributes to the films feel.  Before Breathless films were studio driven, and more fantasy.  Godard puts some reality into his films through conversations and actions of his characters.  Godard gives the film a reality bent like today's reality TV, and this is way before reality TV even started.

The documentary feel feels real.  The disjointedness of the editing seems real.  It's what gives Breathless that feeling of  which separates it from other films.  Breathless is a tribute to old American film noir films where the characters and story line are not going to wind up happily ever-after.  Breathless really works with that as the main character (Michel) talks about doom, and his death.

I have to say that I was a bit more impressed by the production, and it still held up for me.  I was fascinated with a 23 minute sequence in a cramped apartment where Michelle and Patricia talk.  It has 64 cuts in that sequence, and by doing so Godard gives us the audience a feeling of things closing in. Yet all it is is a conversation of Michel trying to sleep again with Patricia.  The way Godard cuts it and shoots the film gives you a certain feeling.  Something is coming, and something bad.  Michelle's downfall is also Patricia, and it is ironic that the girl he has feelings for is the one who betrays him.  Of course this is one of the formulas of the film noir called the femme fa tale.

The film really holds up, and dare I say it is a classic.  What inspires me most is that these films that were considered part of the new wave were done by friends, and lovers of cinema.  It was an attempt to wrestle movie making away from the studios.  Technology allowed the portability of the camera to come out from the studio walls and bring a more real feel to cinema.  Maybe that's where I see or have hope for the future.

With technology changing again, and more and more people having access to the tools to create movies and get them seen maybe there's another renaissance in cinema to come.  That's what excites me, and looking back at these classics inspires me.

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