À Bout de Souffle (1959) Directed by Jean-Luc Godard
Definition of a sacred cow when used as a noun:
"an individual, organization, institution, etc., considered to be exempt from criticism or questioning."
I think it's fair to say that the cinema of Godard and especially À Bout de Souffle (aka Breathless) have both passed into the realms of being beyond criticism. I'm a huge fan of some Godard movies, Pierrot La Fou, Le Mépris, Week End and Une Femme est une femme' especially. But like a lot of Godard's films À Bout de Souffle falls into the category of overrated for me.
There has been a lot of focus on the picture this year as it celebrates 50 years, and its influence on modern cinema is without doubt. The first 20 minutes which captures Jean-Paul Belmondo's petty hood Michel raging against the world in a fast car are as good as any movies get. After that, a very boring film opens up, as Michel delays his escape from the police to bed his American girlfriend, the stunning Patricia (Jean Seberg).
All the themes that would obsess Godard in the 60's are here, as are the cinema references that litter his later films. His fellow New Wave compatriot François Truffaut delivered the script, and it's here that the picture loses some of its initial appeal. Belmondo is good value as always. The film looks great and has an effortless cool.
As a gateway into Godard's later movies, À Bout de Souffle is essential, the original grain and spark of so many good movies that follow this is here. It's just when ever I watch the film I always feel disappointed.
OK, I'm back and so are the romantic comedies, candles, roses, kitchen cloths and vacuum cleaners – romance in life more over. I am a late-bloomer in appreciating the beauty of men. As I have mentioned before, I used to be oblivious to beautiful men. Blind. But my eyes have opened and I can see. Jean-Paul Belmondo.
Breathless appears to be an exercise of many aspects, which Godard becomes a master at later in his career. The dream-like narrative turns, fantastical reality, cultural in-jokes, style; everything is here but still budding instead of blooming. I love Anna Karina and she is not here. I love color and this film is still black and white.
Yet, Breathless more than other Godard's movies starring Belmondo, is a loveletter to his youthful, symmetrical, arrogant and playful masculinity (the kind that was becoming dubious and questionable in the 1960s). It is a lesson to wearing suits, putting on shirts, lighting cigarettes, hiding behind shades. It is a celebration of the boy that remains in a man. The power and domination which may be unfair and threatening in reality appear endearing in this film.
Belmondo is not about to grab my ass in real life. And would I really mind if he did?