Today I watched Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless (1960)
Breathless is Godard’s was his feature length debut and it is also one of the earliest and most influential New Wave films of all time. It follows a young criminal in Paris named Michel who is hiding in the apartment of an American woman who sells newspapers named Patricia. Jean-Paul Belmondo plays the solipsistic Michel and infuses the character with a deep sense of abandon that led to him becoming a major star and he is one of this film’s best elements.
While this film has attained something of an untouchable legendary status, yet I found it a complete pain to get through. Firstly Michel is a solipsistic and sexist ass who I do not actually want to spend an hour and a half with, this would be fine if the film got into the why, but there is no why, this film is Nihilistic. And it isn’t the heavy, disturbing kind of nihilism, it is the flippant, everything is pointless so who cares kind.
Of course I have hailed film’s by such luminaries as Seijun Suzuki for their sense of Nihilistic Cool, so how do those films connect to me when this one doesn’t? Well for one thing, despite being praised for a “headlong pacing,” I felt it was incredibly slow, lacking the aggressiveness and youthfulness that punctuate the Suzuki school of film making. And going back the philosophy of this film, I find it’s exploration of nihilism to be quite pointless as the film portrays existence as being rather pointless.
As an expose of youthful abandon this film has aged terribly as the young folks of my world are much more aggressive and wild than those presented here. Yet I have seen films from this time period which do capture that sense of young rage. Since the nihilism here is not some grand darkness it becomes a pettiness to justify the unlikable actions of Michel. Does anyone enjoy watching a woman fall for such a sexist ass as Michel? Because that is the majority of this movie and I hate watching it because it is so objectively framed, it would be one thing if the film know how vile the protagonist was but the neo-realist influences here rob me of the catharsis of his failures.
With all that being said I suppose I should praise the things this film did for movies in general. The style here is quite irreverent and that blew open the old boys club that had controlled French film at the time, of course film industries the world over are still run by old boys club it just happens they were young when this film came out. The editing is quite unique and takes a much more psychological approach than most films do even to this day and all the actors are incredible at matching this depth of character. They just don’t do anything that interests me, I prefer subjectivity in films because objectivity is a lie that no human can achieve, by attempting to be objective, this film comes off as celebratory of a sexist, shiftless, and all together scummy individual and his solipsistic, selfish lifestyle. While the movie tries to have a meaningfully dark ending the embrace of pop-meaninglessness robs it of the emotional investment that would have made it mean something to me. 1/5