BREATHLESS (A BOUT DE SOUFFLE) (1959) B/W 89m dir: Jean-Luc Godard
w/Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jean Seberg, Daniel Boulanger, Jean-Pierre Melville, Liliane Robin, Henri-Jacques Huet, Van Doude, Claude Mansard, Michel Fabre, Jean-Luc Godard
From The Movie Guide: "What Stravinsky's 'La Sacre du Printemps' is to 20th-century music or Joyce's Ulysses is to the 20th-century novel, Godard's first feature, BREATHLESS, is to film. It stands apart from all that came before and has revolutionized all that followed. Dedicated to the B-movies of Hollywood's Monogram Pictures, the film's structure begins with the conventions of the gangster film and film noir and proceeds to fragment them in a manner which greatly influenced the style of subsequent filmic narration. Michel Poiccard, alias Laszlo Kovacs (Belmondo, not conventionally attractive but giving a very sexy and appealing performance), is an amoral, dangerously careless petty criminal who models himself after Bogart and becomes the subject of a police dragnet when he senselessly guns down a traffic cop. He tries every avenue possible to cash a check endorsed 'for deposit only' and hides out in the apartment of young American student Patricia Franchini (Seberg, whose imperfect French and limited acting skills lend something impossibly right to her enigmatic character). The couple, especially Michel, seem to be falling fatefully in love, but Godard is not content to merely develop character. During an extended, remarkable bedroom scene, this classic existential pair discusses art and philosophy in a way which prefigures Godard's lengthier and more profound ruminations in later films. Resuming the story, Godard ends his film with several ambiguous twists and an unforgettable close up of Seberg. Rather than tell his tale in a conventional manner, Godard uses nostalgia, humor, and brutality alike to create the cinematic equivalent of contemporary alienation. Quoting Hollywood affectionately, Godard is nevertheless more concerned with destroying previous film language and employing his own. He 'jump cuts' with little concern for continuity and then dollies the camera for long, fluid takes. Some scenes have a documentary feel, while others are pure pulp fiction. As the title implies, Godard's philosophy is to leave the viewer breathless so that he may breathe new life into them. (Look for his cameo as an informer.)"