A Breathless Resurgence

Andrew O’Hehir has written a nice piece on Godard’s Breathless over at Salon.com:

Now is perhaps the moment to disclose that my personal reaction to “Breathless” was very different from Brody’s. I first saw it at 20 or 21 — just the “right” age — and found it witty and visually galvanizing, yes, but also full of irritating self-regard, a document of smug Beat generation contempt for the outside world and chilly, film-nerd gamesmanship. I could see clearly that “Breathless” represented and celebrated the triumph of style over substance — nothing in the story, including the two killings, carries any meaning or moral weight — and of image over text.

I’ve come around a bit after repeat viewings, or maybe like the rest of us I’ve just spent more time in the world “Breathless” has made. Today it’s a movie I can admire, without being one I love. Watching this gloriously restored version, I’m able to see that the magnificently casual images captured by Godard and cinematographer Raoul Coutard — the faces of the doomed young lovers, the irresistible Parisian streetscape — along with Martial Solal’s driving jazz score, create a level of meaning that reduces the plot to irrelevance.

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