Wednesday, November 14, 2007


This was the first Godard film I’d ever seen, back in my college film class days, and were it not for his glowing reputation among critics it also would have been my last. At the time I found it incredibly pretentious and boring, but in following years I have fallen in love a bit with some of his other films, such as Band of Outsiders and Alphaville. So, when Criterion announced their big new DVD release of Breathless, my admiration for his other films, combined with my comically poor memory ensuring that I remembered next to nothing about the film, led me down a path of folly.

As one might expect from one of the benchmarks of the French New Wave (others include such classics as The 400 Blows and Cleo From 5 to 7), this film is incredibly pretentious and boring, following the non-adventures of a small-time gangster and his faux-intellectual New Yorker girlfriend, as they talk endlessly, pausing only to commit the occasional crime. Stylistically, the film looks like an early attempt at the present-day Ironic Age, with constant jazz music playing and the lead spending his time trying to be too cool for the room. It’s almost as if Jean-Pierre Melville (a much, much superior director) had tried his hand at making a New Wave film, a comparison that’s all the more impossible to ignore when Melville himself appears in a cameo in the film. I won’t reveal how it all ends, but I will say that anyone who is familiar with Godard’s other films will be able to guess pretty easily how it ends. He really never figured out how to properly end a film, and so ended them all in pretty much the same way.

When people snottily complain about absurd art house movies, whether they realize it or not, the French New Wave is exactly what they’re talking about. Wanting to reject the “Hollywood” style of most films, but without the raw talent to really create a compelling alternative like Bunuel or Bergman could, the New Wave directors instead just had people largely sitting around talking in dry, ironic undertones for an hour and a half. While Godard would go on to bigger and better things, this was not one of them. See it only if you want to see just how blatantly film critics can lie to your face about how impressive a non-movie like this is.

Rating: *

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