BBC - Mark Kermode's film blog

« Previous | Main | Next »

Breathless Versus Breathless

Post categories:

Mark Kermode | 11:43 UK time, Wednesday, 7 July 2010

So who wins the battle of the Breathless? Jean-Luc Godard's groundbreaking 1960s all-time classic of the nouvelle vague or Jim McBride's feverish 1980s paean to kineticism and trousers.

In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions. If you're reading via RSS, you'll need to visit the blog to access this content.


  • Comment number 1.

    Are you baiting the Godard fans again? :D
    Having never seen 'A Bout de Souffle' and Breathless only once many years ago, (it hasn't stuck in my mind) I can't really say much. However I do get the feeling that you may be a tad biased as Breathless has more to satisfy the "Dr K tastes", with one of your favourite actors and a rocking soundtrack, you were always going to like it more!

  • Comment number 2.

    The music and architecture in 'A Bout de Souffle' is great as well. I haven't seen the remake so I can't comment in terms of comparison, but the jazz score in the original is one of my favourites, and it shows Paris to be such a vibrant and bustling city, and so it seems silly to talk about great music and great architecture in the remake as if the original didn't have any of that.

  • Comment number 3.

    Nouvelle va(r)gue? Who have you been talking to that pronounces it like that?

  • Comment number 4.

    Sorry Dr K, I normally agree with your opinions but you're way off the mark here. Jim McBride's version is perfectly fine, it's a fun, typically 80s ride with plenty of blinking and glorious Kaprisky nudity, but it's not A Bout De Souffle.
    First I have to shoot down your pet theory on how the film came about, amusing as it was, because Breathless was made six years before Great Balls Of Fire.
    Also seeing how A Bout De Souffle gave us jump cuts, voiceovers, handheld camerawork and Jean-Paul Belmondo (who, for your information, is far better than Richard Gere) I don't see how it's less revolutionary than a cheesy sex scene everyone has forgotten (I admit however, that it is a brilliant scene).
    Also the soundtrack and architecture of A Bout De Souffle is stunning, the black and white photography by Raoul Coutard is some of the best i've ever seen. The film is not only a landmark in cinema history, a showcase for innovative techniques and the beginning of an entire wave, it's also damn stylish and a hell of a lot of fun to watch. What does Gere do? Take his top off? Pfft.
    Your love of a man who has spent his whole career with his eyes shut has, in turn, blinded you good doctor. I may kill for a pair of those trousers, but there's very little else that McBride can do that Godard hasn't done better. And I'm even one of the people who thinks he's become a pompous twit.
    I admire you for fighting your corner but A Bout De Souffle is a masterpiece and nothing will change that. Ever.

  • Comment number 5.

    Maybe some people are remembering A Bout de Souffle with greater affection than it deserves. I saw the 50th Anniversary edition recently and it bored me to tears (particularly the over long bedroom scene). Think about the jazz music that was going on at the time which probably reached its peak the previous year with the release of three of the greatest jazz albums. I admire Martial Solal as a pianist but the score just doesn't do it for me.

    I don't know if Godard became a pompous twit or was one all along and we have just noticed but people don't change that much.

  • Comment number 6.

    Hi Dr K,

    I've never seen the McBride remake, but i must confess that I have always hated A Bout de Souffle. It's a tedious, self-indulgent film in which, for a good part of it at least, nothing happens. I seem to remember that most of it is just the unlikeable protagonist talking endlessly to his girlfriend about nothing in particular. Sure, there is the crime subplot, but that's effectively ignored and I cared so little about anyone in the film that the ending lacked any of the shock it was, I presume, meant to have.

    Even the 'revolutionary' use of jump cuts etc. was largely down to Godard needing to cut the length of the film, rather than any genuine artistic intent. I just found the whole thing a boring, pretentious experience, and that's the way I feel about most of Godard's work.

  • Comment number 7.

    Not to take your attention away from Dr K's excellent post, but the Guardian has a thread on the most spine-chilling clips of aural horror at the cinema. There's some interesting choices and clips from Hausu, Eraserhead, Psycho Requiem for a dream and The Shout.

  • Comment number 8.

    @ oxymandias87

    "Even the 'revolutionary' use of jump cuts etc. was largely down to Godard needing to cut the length of the film, rather than any genuine artistic intent."

    This may be true, but the effect is of greater importance than the cause, no?
    The classic scene in 'Raiders Of The Lost Ark' where Indy shoots the sword-wielding henchman was down to food poisoning. But we all love the way it is.

    On a side note, as long as we're promoting remakes of classics may I give a shout to Herzog's Nosferatu, which is brilliant.

  • Comment number 9.

    Is the one bad thing about The Exorcist the fact that Richard Gere isn't in it?

  • Comment number 10.

    One word to describe "A bout de souffle"

    Degueulasse (the normal everyday translation)

  • Comment number 11.

    I haven't seen Breathless with His Blinking Majesty, but A Bout de Souffle is a great big pile of mince.

    Therefore, Dr Kermode wins, by default.

  • Comment number 12.

    @ antimode

    The French!

    Dr K's prononunced it fine.

    To have my say on this debate I just have one question regarding remakes, why?

    There are good remakes, Maltese Falcon in 1941. But is was following films that were poor.

    If you are going to remake a film have something new to say.

    I have not seen the remake but if I'm just missing out on the blinking, checquered trousers, LA buildings, Dr K's fav songs and someone having sex after taking of checquered trousers while blinking and singing one of Dr K's fav songs in a LA building I will not be rushing to see it.

    I'm no die hard of the original but it dared to be different. Self indulgent, perhaps, but what else was like it. Yes the jump cuts may have been to cut time but they had the guts to say lets leave them in. LETS BREAK THE RULES!!!

    Without A Bout de Souffle and the other Nouvelle Vague directors we wouldn't have had the Hollywood revolution in the late 60's, no Graduate, no Bonnie and Clyde, therefore no Godfather, Taxi Driver, Easy Rider or Raging Bull

    Yes Dr K you may enjoy it more, it may be more to your taste but given its influence and the fact it dared to be different do you honestly think the remake is more important.

    I love Mallrats far more than Citizen Kane. Does that mean I honestly think it is a better film. No.

    To end my rather longer than intended post I do have to agree with @ Spanking The Chiba and add another Spielberg example.

    When making Jaws he wanted to show more of the shark, but due to technical problems resorted to John Williams' score. The suspense he used as a last resort is what made that film, funny how a problem I suspect he feared would ruin him made him the biggest box office director of the last 40 years!

  • Comment number 13.

    Dear Dr.K,

    While I share a similar homoerotic fascination for Tom Cruise as you do Gere, I think you have to remember that the "Elvis Sex" you have referenced is one of those personal 'perks' i.e. one of those things YOU bring to the movie and the film acts as the catalyst to set your juices running.

    The original will always be better because it brought not just the 'New Wave' style but it also had a real 'cool' element to it.

    Just like: Breakfast at Tiffany's and The Italian Job.

    The whole Paris thing, the costumes and obviously that French language suits the material far better than Gere's tight trousers.

    Take the scene on the street when they casually flirt in Paris - that just beams 'movie-cool' - Gere's tight trousers are much more of a niche thing that only a few will get pleasure from.

  • Comment number 14.

    I can appreciate both of them breing aboutculture. AmBreathless is about comic book culture as the character Gere associates himself with is the sulver surfer, who is a man with great powers from another world. Where as In A bout de souffle we have the character associate with bogart and love america culture. I think that both work and both have something to tell us about the nature of mankind. I think you are right to me the best work goddard ever did was Weekend, weekend is a master piece and this is like weekend for the commerical american. I would love to know what you think of weekend as to me it is a great film about issues and about the civilised man being corrupted by nature.

  • Comment number 15.

    I can settle this dispute quite easily.
    Godard's film had Jean Seberg.
    Any argument to suggest the american remake is superiour is hereby declared invalid.

  • Comment number 16.

    Breathless (the remake) is also a bit of a cult favourite with comic fans due to Gere's character being obsessed with the Silver Surfer and riffling through the contents of a comic shop.

  • Comment number 17.

    Apologies @Gary I didn't notice that you had already mentioned the Silver Surfer!

  • Comment number 18.

    I remember back in secondary school there was the nerdy looking kid who no one paid too much attention to. But one day he started acting like a gangsta rapper from a hip hop video. We all got a good laugh out of it so he started doing it more and more often. He eventually developed into a amusing little skit. However, as the years went by he spent more and more time as his joking persona and less of his time as himself. But then end of school he was just this ridiculous wigger character that not many people found funny anymore.

    This is how I feel that Dr K is approaching this Gere/Breathless idolization. Saying that Gere is one of the best actors ever and his version of Breathless is better than Godard's was a pretty funny joke to begin with. But as time has gone on I think he's starting to believe his own charade. It's like Ricky Gervais becoming David Brent or Steve Coogan becoming Alan Partridge.

    When will this madness end? Will Dr K start announcing that Gere's part in I'm Not There was superior to Cate Blanchett's? Or than his version of Shall We Dance was better than Masayuki Suo's? (OK, the Japanese original was bad but the American version is awful). Please, Dr K. The jokes gone on long enough and it's just not funny anymore.

  • Comment number 19.

    I was going to give a serious, long-winded response to this, but let's face it; I'd be wasting my time. BillPaxtonsSecondBiggestFan has pretty much hit the nail on the head.

    Both the pro-Richard Gere stuff and the anti-Jean-Luc Godard stuff is really getting rather embarrassing now. How many more times can a supposedly serious film critic trot out these lazy stand-up comedy routines - full of the same unfunny jokes, the same infantile putdowns, the same trite observations, etc - before you stop taking them seriously?

    Is this the same Mark Kermode that used to turn up on documentaries for The Exorcist, The Devils and A Clockwork Orange? The same Mark Kermode who moderated the commentary track on The Wicker Man DVD? The same Mark Kermode who once steered me towards films like Possession, Tenebrae, Taxi Zum Klo and Spetters during his period at FilmFour? It's hard to believe, I know.

    C'mon Mark, this kind of babyish provocation/fan-boy worship is best left to the IMDb or something.

    Right now Claudia Winkleman isn't sounding like such a bad idea.

  • Comment number 20.

    OK Mark, you've had your fun, but this joke has gone too far now.

    The original is not meant to be enjoyable in the typical sense or even really about anything, but it was designed to showcase revolutionary techniques of film making. It's so much more important than the typical Hollywoodisation (while more fun with more thematic depth and heart) is a standard job with nothing special about it.

    I recently compared the 2 for a project at university and found them both to be rather dull, but one has to respect the influence of Goddard's work (by the way if we're talking Goddard, I'm more of a 'Weekend' fan) and when one of the key points in the counter-argument is a man's pants, it's not looking good.

  • Comment number 21.

    I've never seen the remake admittedly, but I own Godard's original. I bought it sight-unseen as a little pick-me-up at a local bookstore and it's easily the least watched film in my collection. Watched it once, was bored stiff. Watched it twice and spent most of the movie thinking about my laundry. Read up on it a bit, watched it again, fell asleep. To put this into perspective, these are comments coming from a person who watched all of Satantango in one sitting.

    I later forced my way through Alphaville, Pierrot le Fou, Band of Outsiders and Week End until, after suffering through Notre Musique, I finally decided I would sooner throw myself in front of a truck than any further my education on Godard. I respect that there is some historical relevance to his work but that's about as far as my respect for him goes and I can't take my opinion any further than that. Except maybe to say that Truffaut was better.

  • Comment number 22.

    I would rather watch Yang Ik-Joon's Breathless

  • Comment number 23.


    "I respect that there is some historical relevance to his work but that's about as far as my respect for him goes"

    Surely that's enough? I mean, Godard is up there with Eisenstein, Vertov, Griffith, Hitchcock, Murnau and Welles as one of the true innovators of the cinematic medium. One can easily say "these films aren't for me", but no one can dispute the power or the beauty of his images, the richness of his sound-design, his groundbreaking use of video editing, or the heart-on-sleeve authenticity of his passions, interests and observations.

    If you look up the word "cinema" in the history books, he'll always be there, now, or in another hundred years. His innumerable contributions to the form are well documented and indisputable at this stage, and clearly, without Godard, late twentieth-century cinema would have been a very different place.

    You only have to read or listen to the passionate appraisals of his earliest works from the likes of Martin Scorsese, Bernardo Bertolucci, Wim Wenders, Philippe Garrel, Peter Bogdanovich, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Leos Carax, Wong Kar-Wai, Nagisa Oshima, Jia Zhangke and Quentin Tarantino - who each saw in Godard the possibilities of a cinema for personal and creative expression - to understand what an absolute shadow he casts over twentieth century film.

    A movie like The French Connection for example would never have existed without the films associated with the French New Wave. The same can be said of Bonnie and Clyde, the film that kick-started the late 60s/early 70s renaissance in American cinema, and which Godard was approached to direct, but turned down.

    To say that you respect the historical relevance, but nothing else, is sort of like saying you respect the first man to walk on the moon, simply because he was the first. The accomplishment itself is so great and achieved by such a small amount of people that one doesn't have to respect anything else they ever achieve in their lifetime.

    In the great scheme of things, the name 'Godard' is as important to film as Picasso is to painting; as Shakespeare is to historical fiction; or as Dylan is to pop song writing. Even if every single person from this point on rejects his work or consigns him to something approaching "classical cinema" (like we have classical music or classical literature, which most people simply ignore), he nonetheless achieved something that very few people in their lives ever will.

  • Comment number 24.

    Anyway, here's my favourite review of Godard's film as written by Alice Liddel; a brief text that really gets to the very heart of what makes the film so special/memorable/inspirational/fun.

    Four stars. Belmondo. Seberg. Godard. Paris.

    Yes, this wonder does usher in modern cinema, but it keeps eluding Godard's grasp, as Michel (American cinema; masculinity; irresponsibility; style; action) and Patricia (modernism; ambition; commitment; lessons from Melville) battle, ironically, for his soul.

    For all the subversion, irony, parody, pastiche, self-reflexivity, alienation techniques Godard hurls in our faces, it is impossible not to be captivated, on a conventional level, by the romance of 'A bout de souffle', its giddy narrative, its charismatic stars.

    It is said that the inverse proportion given, in a supposed crime movie, to a brief cop-killing and a lengthy bedroom discussion, neuters the film as a crime movie - not true; it takes us where crime movies never went before (except 'Bob le flambeur', of course).

    Not misogynistic: both Patricia and Godard inform on Michel.

    We are not watching Michel and Patricia in a plot about murder and money; we are watching Belmondo, Seberg, Godard and Paris playing a film called 'A Bout de souffle'.

    Far from distancing us from 'film', this realism brings us nearer.

    No wonder Godard disowns it.

  • Comment number 25.


    None of the facts you are pointing out are untrue. A lot of important people respect his work and he left his mark and influence. But he still makes a lot of smugly pretentious and tearfully dull swill. By my standards that's a pretty important issue.

    I DO only respect the first man to walk on the moon simply because he was the first. I don't even know anything else about Neil Armstrong, maybe he was a saint or maybe he liked to grope women at parties. Maybe with a slight turn of events somebody else could have been the one to walk on the moon, or maybe somebody else could have taken Godard's place in history. Somebody better, even.

    You're obviously a big Godard fan with a well-educated pallet which is excellent, I wouldn't dare dissuade you from that and I highly doubt the Godard empire is going to collapse on a handful of dissenting opinions anyway. But for me it's extremely silly that I should sit through some painfully boring films that inspire me to nothing more but migraines and then insist that they're amazing because the guy that made them is liked by a bunch of other really important guys who make great films and his name is in text a lot.

    Honestly. This wasn't a split-second judgment either, I gave his work more than a fair chance.

  • Comment number 26.

    Curse you, MargeGunderson! I was going to say after seeing the original I would have no reason to see the remake. Not because of redundancy, but because I thought the original was overrated, pointless and featured characters without an ounce of an interesting quality (other than Seberg being the looker that she was). It was a mediocre film at best. But now you mention the remake's comic book thing. Being the comicnerd that I am, I'm off to seeing if it's streaming on Netflix. Thanks MargeGunderson! I hold you (and not Dr. K) responsible!

  • Comment number 27.

    Well I like them both, and while I'd always speak up for the remake as sadly underrated, I couldn't make the argument that it's better. On the other hand one of my friends, a serious Richard Gere fan, would definitely say otherwise. The remake does have a great energy, the bright eighties pallette of L.A., a bit of skew whiff performance from Gere, the blistering end credits rendering of the title tune by LA punk band X. It captures a vibrant moment. I saw it several times the year it was released, and I'd have some trepidation to see it now, lest my middle age finds my youthful tastes dated.

    It should be noted that the co-screenwriter LM Kit Carson, has an interesting pedigree, having adapted Sam Shepard for Wim Wenders Paris, Texas, he also penned Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (which featured the late great OTT Dennis Hopper), and one of the worst remakes, Invaders from Mars.

    Let's not forget Truffaut's contribution of the script to A Bout de Souffle. I think it's one of the few Godard films which feature anything like naturalistic characters that you might connect with, which I would argue is down to Truffaut. As Godard progresses, in later films, characters become more stylized cyphers.

    It's a great shame that McBride's career peaked around The Big Easy.

  • Comment number 28.

    I don't know why people are getting wound up because the man himself, a former critic, says he can take a bit of criticism as long as it's honest.

    Here is JLG talking about his reaction to reviews, critics and some other things. The interviewer seems a bit too obsessed with the logistics of getting Brigitte Bardot to get her kit off in "Contempt".

    @Mack_501, Godard pronounces "Nouvelle Vague" at 8:02. Listen very carefully, ee says zis only once.

  • Comment number 29.

    I'll just agree with what the great Ingmar Bergman had to say about Godard:

    "I've never got anything out of (his) movies.

    "They have felt constructed, faux intellectual and completely dead. Cinematographically uninteresting and infinitely boring.

    "Godard is a f**ing bore."

    There are a few exceptions, obviously (Weekend, Alphaville, Masculin-Femenin), but for the most part I get nothing of his films whatsoever, no matter how gorund-breaking or influential they may be. And, strangely enough, I am a huge fan of Truffaut, Rivette and Rohmer.

  • Comment number 30.

    There is no doubt that Godard pioneered many of the techniques of modern cinema, and his importance can't be denied. But just because he was the first does not make him the best.

    If you want to see jump cuts used effectively watch a Steven Soderbergh film, if you want to see long tracking shots watch 'Before Sunset', which also has the added bonus of being in Paris.

    I'm sure we are all glad Godard was there to influence so many of todays great directors, but all those directors are better than him. They've taken his tecniques and used them effectively to create interesting and, most importantly, engaging films.

    Let's be honest, 'A Bout de Souffle' is baggy in the extreme. It has long scenes and conversations that have nothing to do with the story, and yes I know this was intentional, but these coversations aren't interesting in their own right so all they do is make the film drag. Watch 'Reservoir Dogs' or 'Pulp Fiction' to see how Tarrantino (who ironically, like Godard, has subsequently disappeared up his own backside) creates interesting dialogue that, while it doesn't do anything to move the story along, is still entertaining and often the most memorable part of the film.

    So to conclude: Godard = Original and influential, but boring.
    Directors he influenced = More talented, more interesting, more entertaining.

    Here endeth the rant.

  • Comment number 31.

    More of your man-love for Mr blinky-blink, eh, Kermode?

  • Comment number 32.

    @Crash Landen

    As a comic-nerd, I'm sure you know full well that one of the first "serious" (i.e. acclaimed) filmmakers to riff on comic books was... wait for it... yes, Jean-Luc Godard. Yep, Godard was hip to Marvel comics as early as 1967 (in La chinoise to be precise).


    Your argument is disgusting. The "so what" attitude; I can't/won't get behind that at all. It's like when you see a 'gent in his 80s berating young kids for treading the flowers or dropping litter. "Don't do that" he says, "we fought in a war so that you could enjoy these nice parks; so that you could enjoy the lifestyle we have today". Young kid turns around and says "f-off Grandad; if you hadn't done it someone else would"

    If one person doesn't have the courage, the arrogance or the genius to be different, to stand up against everything that is accepted and say "no", then there is nothing there to follow. It's that simple. This is why history remembers the pioneers, the innovators and inventors (rather than the imitators), and it is incredibly important that such people are not forgotten, diminished or denigrated for something as trivial as personal taste.

    As an example, the work of John Cassavetes does absolutely nothing for me. Seen all of his films, won't be seeing them again. Not my thing at all. But at the same time, I'd defend to the death his right to be recognised as an important figure in the history of film, and I have nothing but the utmost respect for what he did. It doesn't matter if I think the filmmakers that followed in his footsteps improved on what he established. How could they not? They were building on a pre-existing template. Just as the car you drive today will invariably be "better" (i.e. more comfortable, more advanced, easier to use, etc) than the car invented by Karl Benz in 1886.

    But someone has to be brave enough to light the initial fuse; and that bravery should be recognised and celebrated.

    Anyway, to close on a perfectly Godardian type aphorism (my last in this thread): In my earlier post, I was using facts to back up my opinion. The rest of you are speaking your opinion as if it were a fact. And that's no way for a group of people to go about a discussion.

  • Comment number 33.

    @ Jasper
    You seem to have misuderstood the point I was trying to make, as you've diagreed with me and then made exactly the same point about John Cassavetes.

    I'm glad Godard has made the films he has and pioneered the techniques he did. Modern cinema is all the better for it. But the argument that he is the best because he was the first doesn't stand up.

    To use your analogy about the war veteran, my point is like saying that today's modern army would win in a battle against the army from 1945. I'm not trtying to diminish the achievements of previous armies, we're proud of what they did but, thanks to modern technology and 60 years more experience the modern army is better.

    I haven't seen 'Breathless' so I can't testify as to which film I think is better, but I can say this: While I agree with all your compliments about Godard, I can't agree that he is better than modern directors who have quite obviously improved on what he started.

    p.s. please don't call my argument "disgusting" that's a little rude, we are all just trying to have a debate.

  • Comment number 34.

    OH MY GOD!!!
    "Godard did this", "pioneered that", "was the first to do this"
    Listen i'm going to settle this once and for all, OK? OK....

    Godards films are complete bum-gravy - of the HIGHEST order. They always have been, and always will be. I'm sick of hearing people droan on about how he changed the face of modern cinema. OK - he might of done due to his techniques... but that DOES NOT make his films any good. Tedious, long-winded, self-indulgent pretentious twaddle. And that's all they ever have been.
    You are all entitled to your opinions but if your opinion conflicts with mine in this case... then I'm sorry - you are wrong. Simple as that.

    To be honest, anyone who sits watching a Godard film stroking there chin and nodding to themselves thinking what a great piece of work it is is probably just as pretentious, if not more so, than Godard himself. Seriously - i'd have a quiet word with myself if i were you.

  • Comment number 35.

    Want another suggestion for a superior remake? Adrian Lyne's Lolita is better than Stanley Kubrick's Lolita.

  • Comment number 36.

    I think @lidhead is absolutely spot-on about Breathless, (the original). Its exactly right that its a film that drags on, (for lack of a better word), with scenes that add little to plot – and that's absolutely fine. Actually the move away from plot-centric cinema is one of the most important of last fifty years. Similarly, Godard's drive to deliberately alienate his viewers and to attack the key principles behind much of Hollywood's cinematic style is artistically significant and important, and can easily be appreciated for it effect.

    The problem, however, comes out of the fact that Godard's films are indeed filled with scenes that not only have no purpose, but actually give nothing to the audience, (they are neither entertaining nor have a point). Thus, they are not only dull but vacuous and empty of meaning, (and in detrimental way). As cinema goers we seek to find meaning or gain greater understanding from the films we watch. To find none means the film has failed to fulfil the role we have given it. This is the reason why most rom-coms, (being empty of meaning and vacuous in content)) receive such terrible reviews.

    Having said that, as an artistic exercise Breathless continues to stand regardless of the films that followed, (even if it was never really stood well as a 'film').

  • Comment number 37.

    Also, comparing such different films, (divided not only by a 30-year gap, but also by content, context and even artistic goals) is flawed and pointless. Why do we need to 'rank' and quantify two very different films' artistic merits.

    Just as Godard's film being pioneering in its cinematography does not make it better than what followed, so newer films' more modern techniques do not make them superior to the original. Secondly, as Dr K's review has proved, most reviews and criticism are subjective and based on the critic's personal tastes. The fact that you have enjoyed a film, does not mean that someone has to as well. Beauty is, after all, in the eye of the beholder.

  • Comment number 38.

    So no one can utter a single swear word here, but *you* can crowbar in a three minute tribute to gay pornography? Oh I don't have a problem with the latter - definitely not. It's just worth noting that it's quite the little capricious dictatorship you're running.

    Say it with me Mark. No on Prop. 8! No on Prop. 8!

  • Comment number 39.

    It's been so many years since I've seen the Gere version I can't respond on aesthetic terms, though as I recall the Gere version was a good deal more conventional, not to mention rather silly, while Godard's movie was a marvelous mix of movie poses with a dramatic essay on social documentary themes that were then quite fresh. But as a super gay male I can say that though I have always found the young, and even the older Gere quite easy on the eyes, I fear I am less attracted to him than you. In fact when I first heard you espouse your extremely witty view that the Gere version was in fact MUCH better than the Godard I thought, but Belmondo is soooo much more wonderful than Gere in every way, more verile, more sardonic, more soulful. There's something squishy and not quite there inside Gere. He's like James Dean diluted in mountain water. You may prefer Gere's pants, but I always think of Belmondo's hat and sunglasses and the hot way he rubs his thumb over those lips in imitation of Bogie.

    And then there's Jean Seberg. There's a kind of glamorous something to her nothingness, her blond bobbed American flatness that makes her endlessly interesting in a way that the gal in the remake was not. Seberg's look represents a whole era and makes a statement on it, while the girl in the Gere version merely seems to be a victim of greasy eighties makeup. But I guess that's just my view. I'm definitely going back and watch that Gere version again, though.

  • Comment number 40.

    VERY TRUE!!!!!!

    Filmmakers that get too distracted by the politics of filmmaking style and conventions often forget about story, character and YES they disappear up their asses!

    Every subsequent film they make is then ONLY a showboat discussion about their theories about films and filmmaking.

    Godard thinks he's something of a cinematic rebel - I just think he's old news - A Bout De Souffle was great but yes he is now up his own backside.

    Tarantino just makes films to tell his audience what films he likes - but I'm just bored (at least we still have Pulp Fiction etc)

  • Comment number 41.

    Oh Dear Dr K you are getting naughtier by the week.....:-)
    Ok here's my take on it all..I've seen both films admittedly I watched 'A Bout de Souffle' about twenty years ago,and If I'd had a copy in my possession since then I'd have used as a cure for my insomnia...A film that is visually 'too cool for school' but as a piece of cinema frankly is a 'pretentious yawnfest'. Mr Gere strutting and blinking is way through Breathless in his Bob Hope golfing trousers was indeed a sight to behold, and the two things that stick in my mind about the film is one of the cheesiest line in cinema "I think maybe I was rolling dice,when I should have been rolling you." (or something like that)and that kiss on the diving board one of the more memorable on-screen puckers.So Dr K though you make a solid argument,to sum up my personal feelings I'm not terribly keen on either film.

  • Comment number 42.

    Are you baiting the Godard fans again? :D
    Having never seen 'A Bout de Souffle' and Breathless only once many years ago, (it hasn't stuck in my mind) I can't really say much. However I do get the feeling that you may be a tad biased as Breathless has more to satisfy the "Dr K tastes", with one of your favourite actors and a rocking soundtrack, you were always going to like it more!

    Not t'berate a fellow poster, as I'm a fan of MargeGunderson's pieces (getting the compliment in early y'see) but your first on this topic lets me briefly rant, because to me it's a really redundant point to make.

    To say that Mark is likely to be "biased" toward a film for having a soundtrack and actor he's partial to is a pointless thing to say, in the sense that your post implies that of COURSE he'd prefer the Gere film to what is generally considering the superior original, this surely undermining his status as a 'film critic'. Film critics are those who - and this is something I've come to dislike increasingly since starting to study film at university - state their opinions as fact, and they work by objective laws. These are the laws stating what makes films good or bad. These rules culminate in Citizen Kane being the greatest film ever made and...Batman and Robin for example, the worst. What's particularly likable about Kermode are the moments when he throws all 'critical' faculty out of the window and lets us know just how much he likes a film - Mamma Mia is (almost) a perfect example. When it comes down to it, critics have a built-in ego boost as they're trained to write objectively. THIS IS HOW A FILM IS as opposed to "I like this, you might too". The fact is all they're giving us are opinions and so yes, it is fairly likely that Kermode would lean towards the film with a...Rich'n'roll (geddit?) sensibility.

    For me, the films I am closest to are rarely those which fit all the rules I have for what makes good filmmaking, they're the films which apply those alongside being those which I just....take to. Boogie Nights, The Fly, Female Trouble, Don't Look Now, Irreversible, none of which critically regarded as the best films ever, all films which I'm attached to emotionally (aka NOT critically) as much as I am critically (aka according to others' predefined rules). I can forego a film being critically 'bad' if I'm enjoying my time with it. Seed of Chucky is a good example. Characters, writing, actors I'm so fond of I don't register the 'faults' of the film and just enjoy it. Doesn't mean it's the greatest film ever made, but I just can't see the flaws other people find in it.

    Either way it's nowhere NEAR as great as Bride of Chucky.

    Kermode's popularity comes I think very much from his openness about his emotional attachment to films as much as (if not MORE than) his more objective 'critical' POV. At the most extreme point that comes (for me at least) from the films which have the biggest impact at those points in your life when they I had that kind of experience with There Will Be Blood, and in a sense I see films very much through that prism - Very little else has given me quite that same rush, that transcendent moment, so whatever it is about that which makes it so perfect for me is obviously what will make films a favourite of mine. This crucially isn't something which I can put into words. Much as I can explain reasons why I think TWBB is so good, at a point this just stops, I just can't get enough of it.

    I wish all of that was worded more clearly...

  • Comment number 43.

    @Stephen Glass
    Having watched the late night showing of There will be Blood in a cinema with just about ten of us in there, it gave me the ideal opportunity to revel in it's brilliance. I remember driving home that night trying hard to concentrate on the road, whilst rolling the often ferocious yet mesmerising scenes over in my head. Some films just make you feel that way.....they may not be considered critical classics but they just soothe your soul for whatever reason.

  • Comment number 44.

    Never has there been a stronger argument for checkered trousers. I feel compelled to buy a pair as soon as possible!

  • Comment number 45.

    @ 29: Alejandro
    Oh come on! Bergman calling another filmmaker a bore is like Luis Suarez calling another footballer a cheat. The Seventh Seal is one of the most long winded, pointless, mind numbing snooze-fests I've ever sat through. Sure, the concept of playing a game of Chess against death is brilliant and the DVD case looks great but that's about as far as it goes. Give me the vibrant city streets of 60s Paris, the exciting jump cuts and the audacious cool of A Bout De Souffe any day of the week.

    I think Brian - New Forest makes a good point regarding Truffaut's contribution to the script. Lots of people are talking about technique in this thread but little is being talked about the characters. They are drawn and executed much better than they are often given credit for. Many here seem to bemoan the excessive, "trudging" conversations that pepper the film without advancing the plot - I imagine many of you are referring to the 20 minute bedroom scene - but for me they aren't the pretentious, pseudo-intellectual self-indulgences that you are criticising them for. Instead these conversations are out links to Michel and Patricia, the hooks that engage us to a film that, admittedly, is about very little. Their squabbling, arguing and discussions are funny, charming, bizarre and, most importantly, human.

    I understand why a lot of people don't like A Bout De Souffe. It's not everyone's cup of tea and I’m not going to say it’s the absolute masterpiece that it’s fan sometimes sometimes say it is. But I personally believe there is a lot more too it than innovative technique and empty philosophy that it’s detractors criticise it for.

  • Comment number 46.

    I feel like, as someone who genuinely loves A bout de souffle, I should stand up and defend it here. I don't love it to seem sophisticated or some similarly absurd aim - I'd prefer to be honest thank you very much. I don't love it due to any chinstroking - I respond to films with my heart and not my head. I don't love it because it is incredibly influential - influence might garner my respect but not my love because at the end of the day you should judge a film seperate from all that stuff.

    No. I love A bout de souffle because of the intimacy of it, because of how laidback and beautiful it is, because of how Godard manages to combine a sense of playfulness with moments that are really darn poignant. It is a film I could happily put on any time I feel like if I so wish. Any time I want I can sink in to this effortlessly cool, vibrant and thouroughly enjoyable film, and it makes me feel better, refreshed, invigorated.

  • Comment number 47.

    @Stephen Glass #42
    I probably didn't put my point across to well, it was really a lighthearted comment on my part as I have never seen the original, so sorry if I gave the wrong impression. I did put an emoticon in the first post as sometimes it's difficult to get the tone and they can so easily be misread.

    Let me explain myself a bit better. I didn't mean it at a criticism of Dr K, and probably shouldn't have used the word biased as it suggested that he was blinkered towards the Gere version in some way. What I actually meant was something about the Gere version appealed more to his sensibilities so therefore he liked it better. Everyone has their own ideas as to what moves them. It's like a piece of artwork dividing it's viewers, some will love it some will prefer another piece. Isn't that part of the nature of us as human beings, to have the ability to form our own ideas on what we like and dislike, what floats our boat or sinks our battleship?
    Although Dr K is a professional critic and has to approach everything he sees with an open mind he is then fully entitled to form an opinion and decide what he likes and doesn't like. He has a right to express that view just like everyone else. He likes Breathless, he doesn't like A Bout de Souffle, it's as simple as that!

    That's all I really meant, I wasn't being deep or inferring anything with my bad choice of words! ;) I hope I've explained myself a bit better there.
    Oh, and thanks for saying you like my posts, I like reading yours too. :D

  • Comment number 48.

    @Stephen Glass
    BTW I totally agree with your point that the appeal of Dr K is his ability to show his sheer love of certain movies, I feel the same way about some of my favourites too. My original post was really about that, and was more of a knowing wink to him. We have all witnessed and delighted in his passion for his favourite films it's a lovely thing to behold! I often bore my friends by harping on about how great Jaws is, I know it has it's flaws but to me it is one of the greatest movies ever made!!!

  • Comment number 49.


    It wasn't the intention to be rude, I just find the general lack of respect for the development and history of cinema to be 'as disgusting' as the fictional example I cited with the old man and the young kid.

    In general:

    I can only speak for myself here, but when I see a work that is important (and any work that enriched the medium FOR THE BETTER is important) being dismissed (as it is in this thread) with the most puerile language, the least amount of thought or engagement, and the most smug and callous enthusiasm in absolutely demolishing/defacing/defaming the legacy of something, it runs contra to everything that I think film criticism should exist for.

    A rant is one thing, but I think a critic should be there to build things up, not simply to knock them down. And this is why these continuing posts by Kermode are so disappointing. He's in a position to promote films that most of us won't have the opportunity to see, but instead of bringing to our attention great films, films that have fallen between the cracks, he's continuing this disingenuous campaign to provoke his readers, and for no discernable reason.

    And instead of people seeing how bogus this is, they're embracing it; cheering it on like spectators at post-pub fist fight.

    There's also the rather disgraceful view of anyone who might enjoy Godard's work as being some sort of chin-stroking, beret wearing elitist, sat around contemplating Plath and the complexities of human existence, but generally deriving very little pleasure from it. Accusations like this are rather insulting and would not be tolerated if it were someone accusing all Peter Jackson fans of being spotty virgins, or all Chris Nolan fans as being over-excited little boys. But for some reason, whenever there's a whiff of the alternative, or something left-of-mainstream, the knives are out and it's open season.

    It never seem to strike anyone that a person might enjoy Godard's work, not as some ultra-serious academic exercise, but because the films themselves are incredibly beautiful, moving, often very funny, imaginative, exciting, thought-provoking, filled with great performances, etc, etc. The general suggestion that because YOU don't find the films engaging/entertaining, anyone who does is somehow PRETENDING (though for what reason exactly?)

    Most people I know who enjoy Godard's work love most movies - anything from Dario Argento, to Quentin Tarantino, to Jess Franco, to Jean-Marie Straub, to Martin Scorsese, to Stan Brakhage - and certainly don't consider themselves intellectuals, just people who appreciate interesting films.

  • Comment number 50.

    ha ha great article... but no. Just no Mark. You know it, we know it and we all had a good laugh.

  • Comment number 51.


    Comparing all of the people here that don't rate Godard's work to fight spectators is just as petty as anybody else assuming Godard lovers are all pompous academic elitists. But if you think people are looking at you that way, maybe you ought to go back and examine your earlier posts in this thread because you weren't exactly selling yourself in any other manner. As opposed to, say, MadcapCecil, who gave a lesser-winded and far less insulting arguement in favor of A bout de souffle in post #46 which I have far more respect for, even if I still do not like the film at all.

    As I recall, a few of us did ask at one point if Dr. Kermode would share his opinion on Godard's work and this blog entry certainly covers that: he would rather watch Richard Gere's golf pants than the Godard benchmark. It might be a stupid opinion in your eyes, but at least it's an honest one and it's not nearly as provocative as you're putting it on to be. He didn't make a single put-down of Godard's film, in fact he was far more respectful of it than I would have been. He simply said that he liked the other one better. Would you have been so angry if he had made an unpopular statement that you had agreed with?

  • Comment number 52.

    yeah, right.

  • Comment number 53.

    take your pick - version one, cool, yes very cool - version two hot and full of energy. I love 'em both.

  • Comment number 54.

    @margegunderson..... A classy response. Don't take what I said as criticism though, I just saw the opportunity to rant against the likes of my university lecturers and critics. And, in fact, the 'I love this, but know that is a BETTER film' mentality which so many have expressed on this thread. But enough of the friendliness, time for childish argument. Jaws SUCKS. *sticks tongue out*

  • Comment number 55.

    Weekend > (Breathless + A bout De Souffle)

  • Comment number 56.

    @Stephen Glass
    Yes...very amusing! :p
    ....hang on a don't really meant it do you???

  • Comment number 57.

    Grrrrr! Of course I meant mean not meant! (Edit button pleeeaaase BBC)

  • Comment number 58.

    @Amber_ "Would you have been so angry if he had made an unpopular statement that you had agreed with?"

    It depends. I thought Avatar was a let down, but Kermode's playschool review with the Smurf and the Action Man doll was one of the most embarrassing things I've ever seen. It was yet another example of complete Kermode overkill; same with Godard, same with 3D. Why make a totally obvious point once when you can make it again and again, with the joke becoming more and more desperate with each subsequent attempt.

    I'm not really a Danny Dire fan either, but the same thing can be said about M.K's continual "Dyer ire" I mean, why even bother reviewing the new Danny Dyer film anyway; it just seems like he does it for no other reason than to play at the stupid "mockney" accent and make fun of the actor and his fan base, which is pretty cheap, really.

    People can disregard Godard or any acclaimed filmmaker all they want, but they should do so intelligently. Just because something doesn't work for the individual doesn't mean that it should be disrespected, or that the fans or admirers should be disrespected. I'd defend Twilight fans with as much sincerity if I felt they were being sneered at.

    @ "maybe you ought to go back and examine your earlier posts in this thread because you weren't exactly selling yourself in any other manner."

    I never at any point attempted to "sell myself"; just to add an opposing voice. But the lack of respect (both in society and in the arts) is a major concern to me. Important work from previous generations should be preserved and respected. We can do without calling the filmmaker a "pompous twit", or the film itself "bum gravy"

    Or quotes like this: "To be honest, anyone who sits watching a Godard film stroking there chin and nodding to themselves thinking what a great piece of work it is is probably just as pretentious, if not more so, than Godard himself. Seriously - i'd have a quiet word with myself if i were you."

    But yes, obviously I'm the one who should go back and look at my previous posts, given that I've never, in my history of posting here, ever made such a rude and patronising dismissal of a particular group's personal taste. Obviously, that kind of dismissive snobbery is entirely acceptable, but a long and passionate argument is something to be ashamed of.

  • Comment number 59.


    So? Who cares what a handful of people on a blog might think? You seem like a smart enough guy, but you also seem to have progressively gotten caught up in criticizing people rather the actual films we're discussing, calling people's attitudes disgusting when all they're doing is offering an opinion. If it's a matter of "but THEY started it" then why bother lowering yourself to their level? It's not like they can force you to stop enjoying your movies, and I'm pretty sure Godard could care less about his critical popularity. There's passionate arguing and then... well, there's something else.

    As for the overall issue of Kermode's blog at hand here. Waving away everything else for a moment and focusing strictly on THIS entry, it essentially boils down to, "Yeah, that Godard movie that came out this year was terrible, but Breathless is in theater right now. I like naked Richard Gere in his golf pants better, but the original isn't too bad either and if you haven't seen it then check it out." At worst, he's guilty of making a really dumb joke which is getting blown out of proportion.

  • Comment number 60.

    Or making a really dumb joke and having terrible taste depending on how concerned one is over Godard's legacy. But sacrifice of personal dignity aside, it's not like he punched a baby in the face or something.

  • Comment number 61.

    @margegunderson. Of COURSE I don't mean it, I like Jaws. Which suprises me a little considering how much I've gone off Spielberg in recent years. Jaws is - thankfully - one me his films in which he doesn't quite give you ALL the answers in a neat little package, in the way of...say Close Encounters, Catch Me If You Can, Schindler's List. Close Encounters Extended Cut is a prime example actually of how his films end a scene too late, and in said scene he overdoes the 'aw, shucks' AND gives you the answers to the film's questions. And Schindler's List just has a train crash of an ending which goes SO far just begging for your tears it becomes the worst kind of exploitative. And a little aggravating.

  • Comment number 62.

    *one OF his films. Not me. I agree, an edit button is needed.

  • Comment number 63.

    I love the remake, I caught up with it again recently on TCM and was blown away how fresh it felt.

    I genuinely agree with Dr Kermode on this one, a visual/aural feast for the eyes (and that's just Gere's buns and singing)

    I recommend that anyone interested in cinema, check it out.....even if just to see where Tarantino lifted some of his ideas from!

  • Comment number 64.

    I think that you're forever going to be controversial for this opinion and few will ever agree with it.

  • Comment number 65.

    Have you all forgotten that Richard Gere is naked in this film? For women, that'll be remembered!

  • Comment number 66.

    MK..... Check your dates. 'Great balls of fire' was made 6 years AFTER 'Breathless.'
    So your Quaid/McBride theory doesn't quite cut the mustard..... Although i agree that the remake is better than the original. Though i still do believe the original to good.


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.