Fred and Yasser’s Film Club: Week Three, Part Two – ‘Breathless’ (1960)

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The Premise
Film fanatics and friends
 Fred Sullivan and Yasser Akram are on a mission to watch 25 of one another’s favourite movies. Each week they will watch one movie each and then get together to discuss what they have seen. There will be cheers and tears, appreciation and disbelief, and it will all be recorded here for you to enjoy.

It’s week three and the boys have got two bonafide classics to get their teeth into. After Yasser’s choice of ‘Casablanca‘, it’s Fred’s turn to pick and he’s gone for one from the French New Wave.

You can read the entires from previous week by checking out the archives on the left of the screen.

You can also access the lists so far by clicking here for Fred’s and here for Yasser’s.

Fred: I hope you agree that ‘Breathless‘ was a suitable companion piece for ‘Casablanca’.

Yasser: Because Michel (Jean-Paul Belmondo) was seemingly as selfish as Rick Blaine?

FS: He modelled himself on Bogart. Again we have an anti-hero figure in a doomed love story.

YA: He did try to mirror Bogart. I saw a lot of that.

FS: He even tried to perfect the Bogie lip rub.

YA: It was a very trendy movie.

FS: It was a ground-breaking piece of cinema. You liked the way it looked?

YA: It was a very classy and refined looking era. All sylised. I love the way it was shot too. Chopped and then stitched together.

FS: Yes. The jump cut. That was ground-breaking at the time.

YA: It was jarring at first, but then it found its place.

‘Breathless’ (A Bout de Souffle)
1960 – France
Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Starring: Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jean Seberg, Henri-Jacques Huet, Liliane David, Claude Mansard.

YA: Belmondo was awesome.

FS: Yes – did you think he was cool?

YA: Arctic.

FS: (laughs) He was, like Bogart, not conventionally handsome, but there is a quality there – I suppose you have to call it star quality – that makes him magnetic.

YA: The supporting characters didn’t compliment Belmondo as much as the cast in ‘Casablanca’ complimented Bogart.

FS: No, it’s vey much Belmondo’s picture. There is nothing like as strong a support as in ‘Casablanca’, but then the supporting players aren’t nearly as integral to the plot and are given far less to do, Jean Seberg excepted.

YA: I liked their dialogue. I like how they took the piss out of each other.

FS: It was quite natural. This petty criminal who had gotten himself out of his depth, and the girl who he had a casual relationship with is now the only person he can turn to… but you feel that even if he manages to cash the cheque, he’ll be gone and she’ll be forgotten.

YA: And she only saw him to see if she wanted to be with him.

FS: So their dialogue reflects the not-very-serious relationship.

YA: It was very casual. He was constantly trying to get into her pants.

FS: Which makes it all the more realistic (laughs).

YA: Realistic in a European sense.

FS: When he looks up her skirt… it must be one of the most famous face-slaps in cinema!

YA: Seberg’s character was American. That felt out of place. I know she was American though she seemed more French than American, oddly.

FS: She was quite an odd case. An American actress who found fame in American movies about France, married to a Frenchman, so her style is very continental. She was given the role, so I understand, because Belmondo was a virtual unknown and they needed someone more famous to sell the picture.

YA: Belmondo stood out more, ironically.

FS: Oh yes! It launched him to international fame, and her career never quite took off.

FS: I think her character was supposed to be someone who had come to France to persue some romantic fantasy and she ended up living in a grotty flat, selling newspapers. He is the one bit of the romantic dream that sort of  came true.

YA: I think Michel is one of the best carefree characters I’ve seen.

FS: So you liked the style, the look, the editing, Belmondo and his character. You liked the dialogue. Is there a big ‘but’ coming or did you like the story too?

YA: It felt a bit too spontaneous. It felt like it was thrown together, but it sorta worked because of the way it was shot.

FS: I’m going to go off on a tangent here, but it all relates back to ‘Breathless’.

YA: To…?

FS: The Franco-Algerian philospher Albert Camus wrote a book in the early 1940s called ‘The Stranger‘. It’s considered a classic of existential philosophy and one of the great works of French literature. It’s the story of a man who kills someone without emotion or reason. I think the profound effect the book had on French culture makes ‘Breathless’ a film very much in the style of this book.

YA: Is this based on anything or is it something you believe because you’ve found a connection?

FS: Belmondo in the movie behaves in way reminiscent of the protagonist of ‘The Stranger’. He commits a crime and, though he has some desire to get away which the character in the book doesn’t, he never seems that bothered about what he has done.

YA: I think most movies draw from something so the link is possible.

YA: I wanna talk a bit more about the character Michel. I do think he tries to emulate Bogart, but I think that’s because he has self-confidence issues. He craves women’s affections but at the same time tries to come across as a brave man, dismissing triats that may seem cowardly in his eyes. He hides behind the Bogie persona. Obviously people do find themselves trying to pick things up from their idols, but by doing the lip-touching thing, trying to talk like Bogart, smoke like him, he’s trying to hide something about himself.

FS: I see what you are saying. He is putting on the Bogart facade – imitating him in the vain hope that he can ‘become’ Bogart’s screen persona, but his true personality and emotions can’t be as readily changed as his mannerisms can.

YA: … and as soon as he tries opening up to someone, she ends up stabbing him in the back.

FS: Like a chink in the armour.

YA: You almost feel sorry for the horny bastard.

FS: (laughs) He hung around too long.

YA: Almost begged her to stay with him. Insecure little Bogie wannabe (laughs)

FS: I know. What a loser! Bogart was like ‘get on the damn plane, woman‘.

YA: For the style of the movie, the way it was shot, the wit, the dry sarcasm, the style, I gotta give it 7/10. ‘Sleuth‘ was a better film.

FS: 7 – I’m a bit disappointed.

YA: (laughs) Sorry man.

FS: This week… ‘War Horse‘ for me, ‘High Noon‘ for you.

YA: Cool. We’ll touch base next week.

Next Week: Yasser watches Gary Cooper in ‘High Noon’ and Fred watches Spielberg’s latest epic, ‘War Horse’.


6 thoughts on “Fred and Yasser’s Film Club: Week Three, Part Two – ‘Breathless’ (1960)

    […] can read part two of this week’s blog by clicking here. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this […]

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    […] movie each and then get together to discuss what they have seen. So far, they have visited China, France, Morocco, Kazakhstan, the English countryside and the human soul itself, and it’s all […]

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