Monday, January 31, 2011

At the end of the soufflé

TCM is showing Breathless tonight at 8:00 PM ET. It's one of the seminal movies of the French New Wave, but to be honest, it's not one of my favorite movies. To me, it's the sort of the movie that talks a lot without really going anywhere.

Jean-Paul Belmondo plays a thief in Paris of the late 1950s who meets and falls in love with American journalism student Jean Seberg. Unfortunately, one of his car robberies goes wrong, and he kills a cop. He tries to persuade Seberg to go to Italy with him, but winds up spending so much time talking to her that he doesn't notice the police closing in on him....

Breathless is a movie with a plot I find boring, but should probably be watched at least once for its cinematography. The New Wave was about new techniques in photography as much as a new way of storytelling, and in Breathless that's what makes the movie worth a viewing. We get to see Paris as it was half a century ago from a bunch of angles, in crisp black and white. Perhaps color might make Paris look better; see Louis Malle's Zazie dans le métro for Paris as it was circa 1960 in color. However, a movie like Malle's, being in color, can fall prey to the problem of dating more quickly, not having the timeless quality of black-and-white photography.

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