The 50th Anniversary of Breathless is this year and, this being a seminal film, it was given a limited re-release so that we could all enjoy its, uh, seminal-ness.
And it surely is seminally. It’s black-and-white, hand-held camera, minimal sets and cast. There hasn’t been a movie this seminal since Blair Witch Project. Which of course was 40 years later. But still.
OK, here’s the thing: You absolutely can see in this 1960 movie the future of the ambitious art film, a style which persists to this day, but dominated cinema more and more till the late ‘60s and early ’70s. A lot of movie critics mourn the passing of this era, which was pretty much done in by Jaws and Star Wars.
Thing is I hate this era of cinema. Hate hate hate it!
But let me explain what this movie is about: Sociopath Michel steals a car then kills a cop who pulls him over. The editing is awful—excuse me, seminal—to where it’s really unclear what happens in this and the other semi-action scene. He then sort of sulks around, bedding some women and stealing their money, while setting his cap for Patricia, who’s apparently taken by his psychotic ways.
In between ducking cops (in the least suspenseful running-from-the-cops scenes ever), Michel and Patricia have long, meaningless conversations in bed about—well, who really cares. They’re not likable people. They’re not even interesting.
So, I guess there’s the low budget aspect of it. The handheld camera. People praise the acting, but it’s as stilted as Metropolis without any of the charm, scope or aesthetic.
The Boy was meh, but then he was shocked to find out it was only 90 minutes long. “Seemed a lot longer,” quoth he, and I agree. The Old Man and I enjoyed looking at the Citroens. (The Old Man had a couple when I was growing up. Great, unusual cars.)
You know, I’m not the audience for these kinds of movies. This is a movie I think, I dunno, maybe Althouse would like.
It reminded me of music school, where the professors wrote really “inaccessible” music, because if you wrote anything else, people could listen to it and compare it to what’s colloquially referred to as “good music”.
Worse than that, because these guys—and I’m including Jean-Luc Goddard, who directed this film—are so aware of the great art, they’re paralyzed by it. In this movie, Michel idolized Humphrey Bogart, who of course starred in many noir films, which this movie weakly invokes, like a 30-year tenured professor trying to write an atonal fugue in the style of Bach.
Now, it probably is, besides first, best of breed. But unless the self-absorbed, self-indulgent, ultimately nihilistic point-of-view appeals to you, you probably would do well to avoid the subsequent decade-and-a-half of “ambitious art movies”.
But, hey, that’s my opinion. I could be wrong. (With apologies to Dennis Miller.)