It must be a week for me to watch ridiculous little crime movies. Earlier in the week I watched Breathless, directed by Jean-Luc Godard. I've made no secret about my admiration for Band of Outsiders. My roomate was laughing last night when we were chatting film over a few beers and I told him Band of Outsiders was possibly the most enjoyable film experience I have ever had! So that being the case, you would think I would be able to go back to Breathless
the one that apparently started it all for Godard and the French New Wave and be blown away. The answer? Yes and no.
First off, the film is beautiful. Raoul Coutard is the cinematographer and finds with Godard they find some incredible shots. One of the lights turning on at dusk down the avenue one row at a time, behind the protaganist. Two lovers in the apartment in a sunny hazy cloud of smoke. Shots like those alone bring a smile to your face when watching the film regardless of the dialogue. The film also makes use of jump cuts all over the place, but to great effect. One scene of conversation in the car between the two lovers when Jean Paul Belamado is telling Jean Seberg each part of her body that he loves, and you just get different shots of her profile with each sentance is particularly memorable.
So, if the film was beautiful, why didn't I enjoy it as much as others? The story and the characters. I just wasn't able to empathize with them as much as the trio in Band of Outsiders or many other films for that matter. As Michel, Jean Paul Belamado is sometimes endearing sometimes annoying. Underneath all his gangster bravado is a load of insecurity. That makes some of his comments bearable, but when for 45 minutes he is just begging Patricia (Jean Seberg) to sleep with him, the repeated lines can get frustrating. Patricia is one of the most enigmatic characters that I can remember. She is beautiful on screen, but who knows what she is thinking any of the time. I guess that is supposed to be the point. But when it comes down to her betrayal, the reasons she gives, they are maddening. And it is shortly before the betrayal that I actually started believing in the characters more and wanting them to make it.
I will watch Breathless again, I will probably watch it numerous times. Despite my groaning here, I really did like the film. It is still one of the better films I have ever seen. There are plenty of reasons to like it. But for whatever reason a detachment from the characters holds it away from being one of my favorites. And thats a small but important distinction.