Breathless

While critics at Cannes break their heads parsing Jean-Luc Godard's latest enigma, his 1960 first feature Breathless marks its 50th anniversary in a freshly subtitled print from a restored negative supervised by the original cinematographer Raoul Coutard. For those old enough to have cut their teeth on Godard's first effort at messing with French film orthodoxy while blowing an ambivalent kiss to American gangster movies, the movie comes as a thrilling reminder of how playful the master could be even when building a movie around a two-bit car thief and cop killer (Jean-Paul Belmondo) tooling around Paris, arguing love and existence with his American squeeze (Jean Seberg) as he runs from the police. Perpetually in motion, raffish and cheap in his fedora and ill-fitting jacket, both majestic and pathetic in his self-aggrandizing identification with Humphrey Bogart, Belmondo's Michel oozes pugnacity to authority and a double-edged promise of seduction and betrayal to Seberg's Patricia, whose angel face will prove to contain its own multitudes. With its groundbreaking jazzy, staccato rhythms and endless referencing of other films and filmmakers, Breathless makes alienation look like it was a lot more fun in 1960 than in the ponderous gravitas or ante-upping brutality of indie film today
July 23-29, 2010

 
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