In an effort to rejuvenate my thirst for film I have partaken on an ambitious endeavor. I have decided to compile my list of 100 favorite films, “rewatch” them, and write a brief review. I encourage you to follow along.
It is difficult to watch a Jean-Luc Goddard film and not feel that instead of watching a unique cinematic perspective, one experiences a cinematic impression. The characters feel like actors with a blase’ feel for emotion, and a distinct awareness of the influences on their words and actions. Whether it be from film, literature, or even classic art, Godard makes it very evident what has molded these characters to the point where at times they feel like moving billboards flashing the artistic culture that seeps into all of us. This style, crafted and honed more precisely in later films, keeps a film like Breathless, with all of its sophomoric flaws , feeling fresh and relevant.
There is a cultural familiarity in Michel Poiccard, played by Paul Belmondo, fashioning himself after Humphrey Bogart, as he stares at the cinema posters. And it is a familiarity that has transcended the film itself and can be found in several films that followed, perhaps most notably R.W. Fassbinder’s debut Love is Colder than Death, and more recently, the films of Wes Anderson.
Had Godard simply set out to create another tragic film of foolhardy youth it would have been forgotten, and Breathless being his first attempt at feature-length film, makes it conceivable he would have been forgotten in the process. But, his delight in toying with pop culture, and its unavoidable influence on art, helped create a style unto itself. Even his casting of the incomparable Jean Seberg was an exercise in self-awareness. Seberg was the hand-picked darling of Otto Preminger, whose most notable venture to that point was the disastrous acting debut in Preminger’s St. Joan. The failure of St. Joan, and the proceeding backlash Seberg recieved would have made it impossible, at that time, for a French audience to divorce Seberg the actor from the character of Patricia Franchini, and in Godard’s mind, why should they? Seberg even plays a displaced American girl floundering in France, trying to break into media. Franchini is Seberg. Seberg is Franchini.
Breathless may not be the pinnacle of French New-Wave, or Godard’s career, but it has left a distinct mark on culture since its debut, which gives it a fluid immortality as it passes through one influence to the next.
– James Merolla