Breathless (Jean-Luc Godard, 1960)

I think I look at Breathless similarly to how a lot of people look at a film like Citizen Kane: extraordinarily influential through its experimentation with technique, but mostly just that: influential, but not flawless. The jump cuts, gritty camera style, seemingly improvised dialogue, focus on people rather than a “plot”: we’ve seen all these things used fairly commonplace in nearly 50 years since, and it all started here. However, I can’t help but think that all those techniques that Godard started with this film were worked on, expanded, and even perfected in the years and decades since by other filmmakers, making this a major starting point, but a somewhat flawed one. I loved how much of the dialogue seemed extremely real, especially between Michel and Patricia in her apartment, but for all those moments, there’s those moments of dialogue that’re so self-aware of their “intelligence” and are borderline-pretentious (“what is your ultimate goal?” “to become immortal, then die.”) It’s moments like that, along with the occasionally annoying swingy, playful music, that ending which made me roll my eyes a little, and using those jump cuts in the wrong places (they work great sometimes, but not all the time) that make me think that this movie is so aware that it’s breaking ground and so self-aware of how it’s trying to be different and cool that it sometimes just felt like a mish-mash of so many new ideas that it loses some focus. Of course that doesn’t take away from the sheer importance and influence of a movie like this. But like I said, I loved the characters (Michel was so delightfully ignorant of how un-cool and non-composed he was) and the dialogue and the sheer grittiness of both the camerawork and the lack of conventional plot structure, all delivered in new, innovative ways. It’s just that too much innovation can be a bit of a bad thing, I guess. But just a bit.


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