Monday, January 05, 2004

Sketches on Godard

Work has kept me pretty well occupied today. Since I face a lot of writing for tomorrow's NOW PLAYING taping, I'll keep this update brief and, in a way, more in keeping with how I intended to use this blog. Perhaps it's appropriate that I do so with the film in question, as it shares the impromptu, jazzy spirit of BREATHLESS.

First time seeing this seminal New Wave film. It's a good thing that I've seen a decent number of films from Godard's contemporaries. Otherwise I'm not sure how much of this I would have appreciated.

BREATHLESS (A BOUT DE SOUFFLE) (Jean-Luc Godard, 1960) (DVD, 1/4/04) Grade: B+

The title is supposed to refer to Michel Poiccard's (Jean-Paul Belmondo) spiritual exhaustion, but it could just as well refer to the film's pace. This film moves. BREATHLESS possesses a vitality, a thrum of modernity, that I don't get from most of today's films. It's quickened pace is essential, but my favorite part of the film is the approximately 20-minute sequence with Michel and Patricia (Jean Seberg) goofing around doing nothing in her apartment. The cinematography of these two beautiful people is simply stunning. Godard finds unique ways of commenting on the action within the confines of the space, using the posters as point and counterpoint without being too obvious.

Is Godard also having fun with the title in regard to how the film is resolved? BREATHLESS is so loose that I wouldn't put it past him to use the title as a wicked little joke.

I wonder if John Lurie's characters in Jim Jarmusch's films are supposed to echo Belmondo here like he recalls Bogart. None of them are conventionally handsome, and memory seems to remind me that they all dress alike.

Seberg is radiant. Godard could have made a film comprised of the study of her face and kept it interesting. (One could argue that much of BREATHLESS is just that, a study of the two lead actors' visages.)

It's interesting to see how experimental Godard already is at this early date. I remember being duly impressed with CONTEMPT when I caught it during its theatrical re-release a few years ago. I was really put off by IN PRAISE OF LOVE. I'm fairly certain these three are the only Godard films I have under my belt. I can see what makes him such an exciting filmmaker and why he may ultimately irritate me as he makes a more radical progression.

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