125 - Breathless (A Bout De Souffle) - 5 stars
The French film that has absolutely nothing to do with a potentially deflating dessert. I watched it tonight at work thanks to the 50th anniversary re-release with a brand new digital print. As with all old films that have been remastered onto the new digital format, it is still a shock when they appear in the classic 1.66 format which only takes up a small middle section of the screen.
However this does not diminish the enjoyment and impact of the film, as witnessed by the positive reaction given by two regulars Beryl and Margaret who had never seen it before and loved it.
It is a film that splits audiences with some finding it shallow, pretentious and bourgeious, and others enjoying the Gallic sense of cool and Godard's New Wave film language.
I certainly fall into the latter category.
It is a film that can be accused of being "style over substance". The plot is minimal: a man shoots a cop, goes to Paris to meet a girl, gets caught. Yet the style is exactly what makes the film so cool and appealing.
With this film you can argue that Jean-Luc Godard, not Picard, created the film that would become the US and UK's definitive notion of what the French New Wave movement was all about, with the use of jump cuts, pop culture references, focus on character rather than plot, iconic images within the frame that can become cool posters, and a sense of "We're French, look how damn cool we are". No Breathless, no Tarantino.
Whilst my plot description earlier was very short and to the point, imagine a sixties version of Before Sunrise where a guy and a girl wander around a beautiful city talking about sex, love and pop culture. A culture clash between France and America.
Jean-Paul Belmondo is the loveable French rogue, who is endearing to the audience in spite of his crime. He is cut from the same cloth as the likes of Han Solo or Humphrey Bogart, who he references at one point by looking at a poster of him at a cinema.
He has this habit of rubbing his thumb across his lips and is a constant chain smoker who lights up a new cigarette off the one his is currently smoking. Tres chic.
His "romancing" of Jean Seberg is like that of a puppy or a 13 year old teenager. Constantly asking her to sleep with him and going in a sulk when she says no.
Seberg is the smart, savvy modern woman who inspired the waif like hairstyle that would feature in Rosemary's Baby. She is unafraid of sex and confident to use it and talk openly about it. There is a scene where she is interviewing an author and there is a discussion about the role of women in modern society:
"Two things are important in life. For men: women. For women: money". How true that remains.
50 years on, Breathless still feels as fresh and new as it did in 1960. A must-see on the big screen and worth catching at The Belmont this week.
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