Today is the first of my introductions in the new Kermode Uncut Film Club.

The film is Breathless from 1983 - get yourself a copy of the movie, watch the intro and let me know what you think.

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  • Comment number 102. Posted by Bill_a

    on 4 Jun 2012 06:18

    Saw Breathless when it first came out and loved it, the last 10 min reminds me of Wild at Heart with Nick Cage and Elvis, v Gere and Jerry Lee.

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  • Comment number 101. Posted by markw

    on 30 May 2012 19:37

    Am I the only person in the Film Club to purchase a copy of this on VHS no less just to get to see it? Firstly, I think the Film Club is a brilliant idea, and I think we should cherish and enjoy it, regardless of what films are up for discussion, and even more so if, after initial viewing, we think they are terrible. At the end of the day we have a world renowned film critic in Dr Kermode whose huge passion and energy for films he has kindly chosen to share with us. He's not (necessarily) expecting or insisting that we like them, he just wants to know what we think. I for one think that is a fascinating premise so I will happily sit through any of his personal favourites.
    So, what did I make of Breathless? Well, firstly, I had seen neither this or it's French predecessor before, and I refuse to agree with an earlier comment by someone that you have to have seen the first one to make this one work. I felt Richard Gere was excellent in the lead role. His ultra confident portrayal was indicative of his rising star at the time, and the camera loves him. I felt he owned the screen in the same way that Paul Newman did in his 1950s and 1960s movies, such was his magnetic charisma, which is what it reminded me of. The trouble some people had with Gere after the meteoric success of An Officer And A Gentleman meant that he became very undervalued as an actor, simply because Hollywood wanted him to play the part of a beefcake regardless of role or picture. Witness most of his movies in the forthcoming decade after that initial hit, and most if not all have him gladly removing his clothes at the drop of a hat and bedding any woman going (see The Honorary Consul shortly after he made Breathless). And he is no different here - Gere seemed to be one of the first MALE actors that Hollywood exploited sexually in the way that it had - and continues to - use beautiful women to sell its pictures - not that Gere seems to be complaining. But this has ruined many a Gere movie where it seems to be accepted that the script, storyline and acting are academic as long as our Richard de-robes and gives the (female?) public what they want. Fortunately, this film has a bit more going for it than that, even though barely a single scene goes by without Gere exposing some part of his body - be it singing rock and roll in the shower, or making love to Valerie Kaprisky. Even his toes get some screen time at one point. I liked the jokes Mark made about the awful trousers Gere wore throughout - and therefore how ironic that even when he jumps into a swimming pool to be with Kaprisky the trousers still stay firmly rooted to his body. I don't agree that Gere's character Jesse was irritating. I think the performance had far more depth than people gave him credit for. His obsession with the Silver Surfer Comic Book character suggested to me a deep rooted insecurity and self loathing, despite the outward arrogance and hyper-confidence. Like many people who are not happy with the world around them (and particularly their part in it), many seek solace and escapism by indulging in fantasies. I personally thought the point McBride was trying to make was that despite being almost perfect on the outside (good looking, athletic, young, attractive, always gets the girl etc.), Jesse felt totally unfulfilled on the inside which explained his maverick behaviour and strong desire to be someone else - in this case a comic book hero. And I felt the comic book undercurrent was present throughout the movie - it really did have a surreal feel to it, I wouldn't have been surprised if at any moment Gere appeared in full super hero costume and tried to make the world a better place (note - the trousers were NOT part of a super hero costume). The influence of Jerry Lee Lewis numbers also adds to the feeling of a confused time and place - time and again I caught myself thinking this was a movie set in the 50s before realising it was present day. The movie did drag a little in the middle, but then picked up well, and the finale gave it some clout only hinted at during the previous scenes. In fact, the clever ending gave this film a lifeline and for me prevented it disappearing into obscurity, and in this respect it actually makes a decent impression, without ever screaming out to be watched again on a rainy day. Kaprisky got slaughtered for her performance and was never seen again, (at least not in these kind of films) and the only thing I thought was out of sync was the relationship she had with her architectural tutor - whose clearly besotted feelings towards her didn't really work in character - yes, I accept she probably wanted to further her career so welcomed the attention - and Gere's Jesse is definitely jealous of them - but it just sat a little awkwardly for me. So, to sum up, the film was decent without being a classic. I worked out that Mr Kermode would probably have been around 20 when first seeing this - and from his intro I totally got why it made such a lasting impression on him. The point many people miss is that in a film like AOAAG, it's not just the ladies that will swoon at the presence of Gere on screen - many males will root for him because he is their idea of the perfect bloke they would like to be as well. Is it the case that whilst Gere's Jesse fantasizes about being The Silver Surfer, Mark Kermode and a whole generation wanted to be Richard Gere?

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  • Comment number 100. Posted by Marco

    on 30 May 2012 19:28

    The first time I saw Breathless was around 1995 after Quentin Tarantino mentioned it was one of his favourite movies. At that time I was obsessed with anything the chin had to say so I immediately tracked it down. To be fair I had never seen (confession nor have I to this day) the clearly classic French original so I had nothing to compare it to, save for a few b/w stills from that film. Anyway I was immensely impressed with the movie, Gere was great, cool, deranged, suicidal, brilliant and Valerie Kaprisky was simply sex on a stick. The film's detached off kilter style makes it stand over so many movies of that decade and still looks great all these years later. And by the way Silver Surfer DOES NOT SUCK.

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  • Comment number 99. Posted by Ronnie

    on 30 May 2012 09:10

    Me and a friend watched Breathless last night, I have to say we loved it. There are gaping plot wholes and many things left unexplained by the film but the narrative chaos suits the films theme. Jesse is a despicable person but funny, I loved the way his politically incorrectness seems to have hardened with time not softened, as is the case sometimes (Rebel without a cause), his stereotyping racial remarks were the best.

    We laughed a lot and enjoyed hating Jesse, Monica also seems to be a paradox, looking ever the naïve foreign girl, with a cute gap between her two front teeth giving her a baby like quality, but at the same time she seems extraordinarily aware of her sexual power over men and is not afraid to use it, she might even be more corrupted than Jesse.

    The pop culture was interesting thinking of the films that have come after Breathless, LA looked great and was a perfect foil for Jesse’s shallowness.

    I haven’t seen the original so no comparison is possible at this time.

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  • Comment number 98. Posted by Gmitch

    on 29 May 2012 04:49

    Hey Mark! I'm a teenager that became film addict within the past few years, so I'm not nearly as cine-literate as the rest of the people in the blog. After recently watching A Bout de Souffle and Breathless for the first time, I must agree with you on this. While A Bout de Souffle was an extremely important film and all of it's praise is completely justified, Breathless was simply beautiful. It was a clever look on the original's concept and was executed with dedicated acting. I can see why Tarantino loves the movie. It's art that people should give more attention toward.

    Anyway, thanks for telling us about this film. I'm excited for the next entry to your film club.

    Good luck!

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  • Comment number 97. Posted by Dominic Pillai

    on 28 May 2012 23:17

    It's not a terrible film, but watching it left me feeling mildly annoyed. A Bout de Souffle is a classic, and although I tried to watch this film with an open mind, I couldn't help but think that it paled in comparison to the original. Even though I disagree with Dr. K this time around I do look forward to seeing what film he chooses next...

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  • Comment number 96. Posted by David Pascoe

    on 28 May 2012 23:10

    I really enjoyed Breathless. The sheer verve of the thing just blows away any cynicism about whether McBride and co should be treading in Godard's footsteps. I loved the look of the film and agree with Mark that LA has rarely looked better in a film.
    Kaprisky did an excellent job, despite the problems in her accent, she successfully showed why Monica would find Jesse exciting to be with but also making it clear that in many ways, she was far more worldly wise than he was. She was all too aware of what she had and what she needed to do to get on in the world. The only false note was struck by her attitude at the end, I felt that she would have been only too able to disengage herself from Jesse and realise that the house of grass in Mexico would have blown away in the wind all too quickly.
    The big thing to come out of the film for me was sadness that Gere, who gave a stunning, livewire performance here, has seen that fire and energy diluted in innumerable roles in subsequent years which seem to call on him to stand around in a cardigan, looking stoical. Here he was both utterly mesmerising and totally believeable. One of the best portrayls of an immature idiot I've ever seen, but crucially never unlikeable.
    So, great performances, stunningly shot, absorbing story...yeah, I'd have to say that I'd pick Breathless over A Bout de Souffle ultimately too.

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  • Comment number 95. Posted by technical diver

    on 28 May 2012 21:44

    I havent seen the original but did enjoy this fil. It is amazing what an obvious influence it must have been for Quentin Tarantino...having lived in southern california I can also agree that it nails the feel of LA. Interesting film.

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  • Comment number 94. Posted by R Winckworth

    on 28 May 2012 20:56

    Ok, so I watched À Bout de Souffle last night and after great difficulty in finding a copy, watched Breathless this evening. I wouldn't consider either to be great films,. I enjoyed the vigour and energy Gere brought to Jesse. In the first 30 minutes he seems be channeling James Dead from 'Rebel Without A Cause' and Bruce Springsteen's stage act. It's just brilliantly hammy. He is excellent throughout.
    Kapisky is clearly no Seberg in terms of style or talent, but the remake is aided by having an magnificent soundtrack.
    Further, I like Jesse's admiration of the Silver Surfer. McBride and Gere make Jesse a more loveable character (if not by a great deal) than Belmondo's Michel.

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  • Comment number 93. Posted by babyfacemichael

    on 28 May 2012 19:26

    Mr postie delivered today,just watched it. I thought it was brilliant. Jesse is a man child, a person who acts totally on impulse and lives entirely in the moment,this moment, right now.Everything else for him is meaningless, the future?consequences do not exist. How many times have i nearly had a real fight with someone like that, doing something stupid? He constantly creates his own little piece of happiness, even right at the end, rather than think of the future. I think hes a great cinematic character. There has been a lot of criticism of Kaprisky. I think shes his perfect muse , beautiful ;her passion and common sense at war with one another. Ok, so she isnt Katherine or Audrey Hepburn, but they would run a mile from Jesse and think him an idiot. The end was brilliant, great freeze frame, just perfect.

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