Monday, October 1, 2018

Review Breathless (1960)


A deconstruction of classic filmmaking into the artistic expression that we know today.

Before the 1960s, films from the golden age of Hollywood follows a set of rules, a guidance of some sort that has existed since the early contemporaries. Long takes and cohesive editing are the primary language of the audio visual deliverance in cinema. And although the format has been the basis of some of the most regarded films ever made such as Welles’ “Citizen Kane” or Curtiz’ “Casablanca”, the young wave of filmmakers started to dream for more. From the birthplace of cinema itself, three young French filmmakers : Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, and Claude Chabrol, forever changed the course of film history with the film titled “Á bout de souffle” or “Breathless” in english. Now, why did I spend a whole paragraph explaining that you may ask? Well, it’s because that’s all I really can praise the film for doing.

“Breathless” is influencial, no doubt about that. More than influencial, it is as much as a milestone for film history as did Griffith’s “The Birth of a Nation” back in 1915. And with that reputation hanging on its shoulders, it’s only natural for me and many people to expect a flawless masterpiece, something that “Breathless” clearly isn’t, or at least in my own personal opinion. It is game changing, yet it really boils down as this prototype for the movement that the film is kickstarting. It is a newborn child still at its infancy, jagged and confused while trying to comprehend its own existence. Yet it never felt as a genuine accidental masterpiece, but rather more of a gimmick. Its as if Godard and his peers are trying to be different just for the sake of it. It also never felt really personal, because of its very technical driven direction, a shame considering how much potential the plot and writing was. So, let’s talk about that.

While it is quite hard to comprehend, what I took from “Breathless” is a story of knowing one self and not be blinded by the mythical persona we or others gave given to us.

This is reflected in the two characters’ odd relationship that is full of denial and ignorance. With Belmondo’s character manifesting the false stardom bravado men often give to themselves, basing ther persona with that of the tough as nails movie stars, in his case Humphrey Bogart, while Seberg represents the passive and innocent little girl stereotype, pushed around by the world’s and Belmondo’s character’s misogynistic behavior. If it’s not obvious by now, these characters are clear commentaries on the state of post-war France cinema and culture, with the western influence ever growing stronger in the lives of the French people. This is Godard’s call to arms, an effort to restore French’s glory in the world of art and culture. That, I can really appreciate from him, as everyone should.

Yet, where does that put the film for me. Do I hate it for its incohesive and flawed filmmaking? Or is that a product of my overwhelming expectation? Does that mean I love it for its genuine criticism of French culture and self identity? Or is that not enough to make up for its delivery?

To be honest, I don’t really know. My feelings towards “Breathless” is one that constantly changes as time passes. It is a film I truly respect, yet couldn’t fully adore. So due ignore the number I slapped on the scoreboard for it is irrelevant. And go ahead, start a riot, cut my head off with an axe for not liking this more, for I may as well deserve that punishment.

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