So i just finished watching breathless and i have to say im not that impressed with it. For one let me start off and say i do understand why its held in such high esteam. With it being a pioneer in french new wave, its use of radical editing to portray a story, the camera pretty much going anywhere, it challenging certain ideas about power etc. Kinda influenced or marked what the 60’s would be. But apart from these observations there is not much else i can pull from this film that impressed me or had any interesting ideas. What i find kind of disliking about Godard’s style(this is just an impression from watching one of his films not to say it goes for all his films) is it seems different for different sake. Certain things are challenged in the film i felt that didnt have a lasting impression on film itself. But more so than not most of the things challenged did have an impression on film. Also i dont know why i thought this film was going to be like a pulp fiction style when it said homages and critiques of genres. It is much more subtle in doing so than pulp fiction is and that was kinda a let down for me also. Just kinda want someone to enlighten me on something i am missing thanks.
you say it was a pioneering french new wave film, radical editing style, revolutionary camerawork, challenging preexisting notions of power and everything else in cinema, and influential for the 60s in general, yet you cant pull anything else impressive or interesting from the film? what more do you want??
“Also i dont know why i thought this film was going to be like a pulp fiction style when it said homages and critiques of genres. It is much more subtle in doing so than pulp fiction is and that was kinda a let down for me also.”
This might be the crux of the problem. Not specifically expecting something similar to Pulp Fiction, but approaching the radical and revolutionary nature of the film with a modern eye. A bit like telling someone how incredible and epic the final battle of Seven Samurai is (which it is), but then having them go into the film with the war sequences from Lord of the Rings fresh in their mind, and expecting something similar to that.
In the grand scheme of things, though, it’s perfectly fine to not be impressed with Breathless. Godard did go on to make better films, and Truffaut, Resnais and Varda were already making far superior work.
nothing that came out of godard, or the new wave in general, was better or more important than “breathless”.
Personally, I’d argue that the “Left Bank” of the new wave was doing better work, and doing it earlier than the Cahiers group proper, but that’s just me. I’m certainly not trying to argue that Breathless doesn’t deserve to be placed on the pedestal it’s always been on… I love the film, I just love other films of the era much more.
“approaching the radical and revolutionary nature of the film with a modern eye.”
Well i dont think of myself as having a modern eye because the majority of the movies i watch are around the 1960’s and earlier. I just think godard is not that interesting of a filmmaker greater works have come out of Truffaut that define the french new wave better than him.
Godard is not that interesting of a filmmaker? Really? The jump cuts and editing in Breathless alone make him an incredibly interesting and important filmmaker. At the time what was being praised as good filmmaking and what filmmakers were trying to perfect were smooth, elegant and very precise editing techniques. Godard felt this was completely limiting and that it had been overdone and overused. By breaking this he completely revolutionized cinema. Also, you have to realize that this is Godard’s first feature length film. Some filmmakers strive to make films like this all their lives and never come close and Godard was able to do it in his first try. Also if this is the only Godard you have seen you are surely missing out. His films seem to only get better and better, or maybe they are just all equally good. I hate to be biased but I have yet to see a Godard that I would not give a 5 out of 5 and I have seen around twenty-two of his films and plan to see the rest as soon as I can. Anyways you should check out Contemp which is a huge contrast to Breathless, completely beautifully shot and polished and doesn’t have the “grittiness” of Breathless. Either way wether you appreciate this first film by him or not, his filmography as a whole is incredibly interesting, innovative, important, and in my eyes, the essence of cinema.
“Godard felt this was completely limiting and that it had been overdone and overused. By breaking this he completely revolutionized cinema.”
well i dont know if i agree with that because Sergei Eisenstein to me had a more pioneering impact on radical editing with his films than godard. And he was a whole 30 years before him.
“Also, you have to realize that this is Godard’s first feature length film. Some filmmakers strive to make films like this all their lives and never come close and Godard was able to do it in his first try. Also if this is the only Godard you have seen you are surely missing out. His films seem to only get better and better, or maybe they are just all equally good.”
and i agree with you completely that i need to see more of his films.
Godard himself doesn’t claim that Breathless is the beginning of French New Wave, he thinks it is the end of old cinema. Breathless wasn’t meant to be as different as it ended up being, it was originally a classic noir scenario with the man of crime trying to escape with the girl he loves. The jump cuts were an after though and the grittiness can be attributed to his lack of money. The original cut was two and a half hours Godard felt that this was too long and went through the film, he decided when conversation felt like it was dragging on and getting boring he would just cut it out. This is how the revolutionary use of jump cuts was birthed. Godard did not fight to be different he just wanted to make movies he found interesting, and disregarded all previous rules when he set his mind on something.
Sure no one can make as much of an impact as Eisenstein, he did invent the intellectual montage so famously used in the Godfather’s baptizing scene, but Godard made his own mark. He proved that film is not something that needs to follow strict rules, but it is an art-form and with each frame as his canvas he can do whatever he wants.
I’m obviously bias and a Godard fan, sure not every movie he makes I think is amazing but the majority of them I do and for me Breathless is my favorite of his films. Perhaps if you read some of his interviews surrounding the movie you will get more of the idea why this film is considered so important, and what his motives were for his consistently different style.
after all the hype, i was definitely expecting something more epic, but it’s still something i’m always going to keep in my collection.
but when you read about a film for years, and finally see it, and it’s a film basically about two people talking, you’re probably going to be a little bit disappointed. very good film, though
I watched Breathless as a younger man and was underwhelmed. I discovered a love of French cinema in my mid thirties via Renoir and Truffaut and re-visited Breathless after being much more impressed with Contempt. I loved it and was ready for it the second time. It’s a great film, and worth the fuss….. even if there are debut films I like more, like 400 Blows, and Lift To The Scaffold it will still hold it’s place.
After that I ‘got’ Goddard to a much greater degree and find most of his films have something substantial to offer….. and that can’t be said about too many Directors.
It didn’t have the strongest impression on me at first either.
My suggestion is to see more of his films and gain either a greater appreciation for Godard’s techniques, or to move on if he isn’t for you. I returned to Breathless after watching about three or four Godard and found I enjoyed it much more and picked up on rather small quirks within the film that I had looked over the first time.
Breathless is certainly an established important film, and it has much to be appreciated for. But for me Godard becomes more interesting when he became more radical in his experimentation with narrative film, especially as his films became overtly political like Weekend and Pierrot le Fou. Also, his films lately are that of a master who continues to experiment with structure and content, without compromising his artistic integrity. Not that I would identify him as the only director doing this – far from it – but it is nice to see that even this late in his career he hasn’t settled.
I dont think Breathless is that great either, i would take Contempt, Weekend, or Alphaville anyday. Breathless isnt bad but definitely overrated.
Over-rated. Give me Band of Outsiders or give me Death!
I will give you death, i hate Band of Outsiders.
though Truffaut is a great force in the new wave era with his the 400 blows, shoot the Pianist and Jules and Jim his underlying methods below the new wave techniques are conventional atleast when compared to Godard, who on other hand was gloriously unconventional in every way, the soul was new, story telling was new, the way the content cheaply shot was new, tone was new, the unconventional protagonists in unconventional situations mirroring a european microcosm of the times comprising of prostitutes, tramps, intellectuals was new.
I feel his way of thinking even if it is for the sake of being deliberately different was masterminded by splitting conventional cinema into pieces and constructing a whole new syntax out of each segment to become more of cinema of the “head rather than the heart” (as quoted by Satyajit Ray) was a gift.
My first viewing of Breathless was a dud too, but somehow after completing other Godard films and when I came back I really knew why it is a masterpiece in its own right.
Even if you haven’t sat down and watched Breathless, you’ve already seen it. It exists in references, clips, homages, in conversation, on forums such as these, and citations to such a large degree that by the time I saw it, I had already mapped out the majority of the film in my head, and the filler was the plot, which was a good try but I think failed to make his antihero nearly as compelling as Godard intended. Breathless, by all means, is a must-see film of cinema history, and all film students, film enthusiasts, and prospective filmmakers should see it to fill in a big foundation of their education, but I am not quite convinced yet that people need necessarily LIKE it, as regards that usual pesky problem with taste. I believe this movie is like Godard setting himself to task to prove various established film theories, but that it as a piece of art or entertainment is not quite as emotionally compelling as it is structurally important. Is that a fair assertion, or is there some other way of approaching it that needs to be included in this discussion?
We have hashed a lot of this topic around on the thread Bergman vs Godard at http://www.theauteurs.com/topics/1664/comments in case anyone is interested. After discussing this at length with Bobby Wise, I admitted to being more of a Contempt as opposed to Breathless person. Yet, as he and many here have pointed out, Breathless is one of those essential, must see films. In this first film, is Godard’s most condensed and concise version of just where he wanted cinema to go. Basically, much of his work could be seen as an elaboration of this initial work. It was like throwing a stick of dynamite into a Cannes screening at the time, or giving everyone the finger – but it is a very radically thought-out and critically aware finger. It still was, after all, a first film and had its own teething troubles – which Godard handled brilliantly with his famous ‘jump cut’ technique. This could have been an amateurish disaster, but, in spite of all odds, he pulls it off. His actors believed in him and his improvisational technique – which, was another great influence on filmmakers who followed. Unfortunately, few could pull this off as well as Godard.
Certainly, his style was a complete departure from French film of this time, not mistakening his own buddies, of course, who wanted to collectively shake things up – and did! It is an audacious work that fundamentally changed cinema. Saying this, as a story and on an emotional level, it is by no means my personal favourite Godard, as our own personal choices must come into it, of course. I now have a new appreciation of this film, thanks to the lively discussion on the earlier thread. I have radically altered my own opinion of the film over the years – much of it based on reading about it and points others have made about it on this site in various threads.
Breathless is OK, but The Big Easy is better.
Yeah I was definitely disappointed with Breathless the first time I watched it as are almost all of my film history students. I bought it sight unseen after having been completely seduced by “The 400 Blows” and pretty much the rest of Truffaut’s oeuvre, and found the film to be a tremendous bore.
I have since grown to enjoy it more than I did the first time but it really has more to do with getting my head in the time when it was made. I think it will always be extraordinarily important historically but I don’t find it to be timeless in the least. “The Jazz Singer” is an important historical film as well but one that I find to be an extremely unpleasant viewing experience.
Loved Contempt though.
I’m agreeing with the Historical Importance folks. The film was of immense importance when it was first released, but I find it unwatchable now.
It’s not particularly engaging as narrative. is it?
The un-engaging stuff is probably the point. Or is it? This is Godard, after all…
i’m really surprised that people find “breathless” unwatchable, or not ageing well. for me, its one of the most charming films i’ve ever seen. i fall in love with it again and again each time i watch it.
“but when you read about a film for years, and finally see it, and it’s a film basically about two people talking, you’re probably going to be a little bit disappointed. very good film, though”
hahahah sums up pretty much what i was thinking.
It may not be my favorite of Godard’s, or of the era, but in regards to it not aging well… I feel exactly the opposite.
Just take a quick look at the films that have shown at SXSW over the past few years, and you’ll see that people are essentially still making their own versions of Breathless, but have been unable to top the original.
Nothing’s could be more poisonous to the appreciation of a film like this than for the experience to be larded with a “classic” reputation.
I just watched this film again this past weekend, for the first time in years (it was the thread that moved me to do it), and have to say that I enjoyed it more this time than I’ve ever enjoyed a Godard film (with the exception of Notre musique – but that’s my individual opinion, not the Great Critical Canon’s). The first reel is hilarious, rolling with Belmondo as the biggest asshole/scoundrel, but far too limber and comfortable in his skin to be a poseur. Godard’s lightness of touch – light as a pickpocket’s – is masterly. Belmondo and Seberg are beautiful and possess none of the histrionic skills that would’ve been requisite, I suppose, in the cinéma de papa ; nor are they speaking lines which would bear any kind of thespian scansion. It’s precisely this movie that owes the least to the novel and the drama and the plastic arts—but doesn’t clobber you with its pure authority; seems sort of insouciant and careless of what you think…DP Raoul Coutard’s work is as always a seminar in itself…
Though it’s more than twenty years ago that I first saw Woody Allen’s Manhattan, and was first gobsmacked by that movie – and then later Hannah and Her Sisters, equally staggered – I never noticed until now just now how much he cadged from A bout de souffle for those films (even if it was never discussed with Gordon Willis and Carlo di Palma, respectively).
well said. its really one of the rare, true gems of film history. i cant think of one single reprehensible thing in the film, either in content, style, or intent.
I saw this film a few years ago with no expectations. I knew of it but had never paid any attention to any talk or hype. Seeing it at the cinema improved the experience for me. I loved the film. Seeing the parts that have been used and downright lifted was kinda cute.
This became after the first watch, and still is, my favourite film. I have never had an interest in the Nouvelle Vague and haven’t seen much of it. To me this film stands on it’s own. I’m not a big enough student of cinema to care about it’s impact, I just enjoy it.
It seems that among cinephiles it’s very unfashionable at the moment. Maybe it’s popularity will rise again in the future or maybe it’s always been overrated.
Breathless is definitely over-rated, but over-rated in the sense that it’s rare a film can actually live up to the hype of its reputation. It’s still a great film, At the risk of being slaughtered, I actually think Truffaut is far more over-rated, and I can’t see what all the fuss is about with 400 Blows. It didn’t do much for me, and it didn’t engage me throughout.