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Breathless

By Luisa F. Ribeiro | Posted

Can a classic be dated and remain a classic? Take a look at Jean-Luc Godard's stimulating, jarring, boring, frustrating French New Wave ice-breaker and find out. Influenced heavily by the stream of Hollywood film noirs that were been bottled up during World War II then hit French audiences in a torrent, 1959's Breathless is nothing less than a love letter to the American gangster movie. The film's hero, Michel Poicard (Jean-Paul Belmondo), is a petty thief who steals a car, commits murder, rips off a friend, and bickers and makes up with his American girlfriend (a lovely Jean Seberg). Posing in his fedora and dangling cigarette à la Humphrey Bogart, Poicard seems oddly dated even by 1959 standards, while Seberg remains refreshingly contemporary. Godard's maddening jump cuts and seemingly pointless camera movements certainly were unexpected and thrilling when the film came out, but with the advent of hand-held cameras and today's craze for manic editing, Breathless often seems to be striving too hard for arty coolness. But cool it ultimately remains--with its sleek jazz score, bold infatuation with itself, and frank love of all things cinematic, how could it be anything else?

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