Review: Jean-Luc Godard's Film "Breathless"

"Breathless" (1960) is completely uninterested in impressing its audience. It is the epitome of self-indulgence, of self-obsession, of even solipsism. And the exact same things can be said of the characters. No one listens to anyone else, only to themselves. Michel at one point acknowledges this, saying, "When we talked, I talked about me, you talked about you, when we should have talked about each other." It reminds me of the Kurt Cobain lyric, "I don't care what you think unless it is about me." Appropriately, the name of that song is "Drain You," and that's exactly what the characters in this film do to each other.

The dialog is fascinating. No one talks to communicate anything. No one shares information we need to understand the story. It's best described as stream of consciousness blabber, ripe with non sequiturs. But, unlike a Tarantino film, you don't get the impression the dialog is meant to impress us with its sheer aimlessness. It's just completely authentic and honest, and uninterested in serving a purpose. And that's what is so fascinating about this film: how real these people are in front of us, how they just exist. You certainly feel like a fly on the wall, especially in Patricia's bedroom, listening to a naive young couple interact.

The film's tone and structure is just as scatterbrained. One minute it's a genre film about a killer on the run (complete with the appropriate score) and the next it's a character study about young lovers. It's genre fusion, without trying to be.

Bottom-line: It reminds you that the world in which a film exists doesn't have to be separate than the real world. That fascinating fiction can still live and breathe in reality. It's 90 minutes of hanging out with fascinating and beautiful people, with a filmmaker who demands that you meet him on his terms, with a tone and structure that is utterly unique and perfectly rough. I loved it.