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Film Club: Breathless

Tuesday 22 May 2012, 14:29

Mark Kermode Mark Kermode

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 1.

    Breathless is a very rare thing; an American remake of a French film that is truly translated, as opposed to transliterated. Interestingly, Gere was the star of the only other one I can think of at the moment too (Sommersby).

    These films have taken the basic premise and structure of the original and re-created them in a way that is accurate within the sphere of the cultural context of the US. The characters retain their humanity because of this. Gere is not Belmondo and there is no crass attempt for him to be. He is a true translation, taking into account location, period, language, economics, politics etc.
    In short, this film demonstrates how a film can be successfully revised for an audience far removed from the one that would have been expected to watch the original.

    I hope that makes sense?

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    Comment number 2.

    I watched both A Bout de Souffle and Breathless last year, after Dr K mentioned them a number of times. While I would say A Bout de Souffle is a more important film, and probably a better film, there's no doubt that Breathless is a lot more fun!

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    Comment number 3.

    I'm not a massive Jean Luc-Godard fan. I tried to watch Film Socialisme and found it to be so bad it was frightening. I even saw on the Metacritic Film Website that Film Socialisme appeared on Top Ten Lists for 2011 which made even more scared. I cannot explain why I enjoyed Breathless but I found it to be fascinating with its' themes of Pop Culture.

    If I did have one last request Mark it would be this. Could you introduce a more mainstream one time and a less mainstream film the next. Like taking in turns. So let's say next time: American Beauty and the blogpost after that: Tales from the Crypt

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    Comment number 4.

    Thanks Mark! I never really had any interest in seeing this film before but you most certainly got my attention. I especially like how you pointed out the way its post-modern style was almost too ahead of its time. I personally already see a lot of similarities to contemporary films like True Romance, with the protagonists love for comic books and obsession with the rockabilly era. It's on Netflix Instant so I'll be checking it out tonight and will post my comments later or tomorrow.

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    Comment number 5.

    I haven't seen the french original so couldn't compare both movies but I don't think I am missing too much... I love Breathless, ever since they used to show it on telly in the mid 90s... Richard Gere is ott and fairly ridiculous, but so is the whole film and that for me is the charm.

    I first saw this film when i was about 13 and seeing Gere riding along in a stolen car with an amazing sunset tossing all the cassettes he doesn't like out of the window was quite frankly the epitome of cool.

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    Comment number 6.

    Thanks for the intro Dr K, looking forward to watching it again armed with your information.

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    Comment number 7.

    I watched it last nice and had a pretty mixed response.

    I agree that much of the film is beautifully shot, with a lot of the shots of LA, reminding me of Michael Mann; especially Heat and Collateral.

    And the film does do the whole pop culture thing ten years before Tarantino. (and the skateboard kid is ready - the Silver Surfer does suck).

    On the other side the character of Gere is massively annoying. Maybe its true that this was what he was aiming for, but I just didn't like him. You just wanted to give him a good slap.

    Also the female lead, Valérie Kaprisky, is IMHO pretty wooden.

    So I had no sense of involvement about what happened to them.

    Still, ahead of its time in many ways.

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    Comment number 8.

    The 1983 remake of Breathless is a film about the utopia that is L.A. and Richard Gere's character is its illigitamete, and very annoying, son.

    Comparing this film with the original is inevitable and like the original Godard version (which I had to endure under torture a record twenty times at both A-Level and university) both films were way ahead of its time.

    In the original's case it was the unique film and narrative techniques used. In the remake's case its Richard Gere dressing like a 'Frenchman'. However both films influenced a horde of generations of filmmakers by displaying that intertextuality is a cinematic art form and it should be embraced. However unlike the original, this remake has been very sadly lambusted and tossed away.

    In conclusion I have to say that whilst I'm no fan of Gere, Valarie Kaprisky is a sight for sore eyes, and unlike the original the 1983 remake is far more fun, wittier and the soundtrack is sure zanier. Whilst no masterpiece, it should receive some form of recognition.

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    Comment number 9.

    I watched this a couple of week ago in preparation for the Film Club. I loved the beginning of the movie and loved some of the end, but the middle left me cold. It just did not click for me.

    I really enjoyed Gere's portrayal of Jesse Lujack and did not think that Valerie Kaprisky was too bad either, but as you mentioned, the soundtrack is really what grabbed me.

    From Jerry Lee Lewis to Dexy's Midnight Runners, the film felt very current although dated. I know the trousers were awful, but I have seen a lot worse walking around claiming to be 'hipster' or 'retro'.

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    Comment number 10.

    I think Godard is largely overrated. There are things about "Weekend," "Contempt," "A Woman is a Woman" and "Alphaville" that I like very much. But I can't say that I truly enjoy his films.

    As for "Breathless," I agree that it nails the Los Angeles settings. Reminded me a bit of Michael Mann's "Collateral" in that way. I'm a So. Cal native, so I appreciate those touches. I also think that Richard Gere is a much better actor than people think. He seemed entirely credible to me in this role. And Kaprisky over Seaberg? Sorry, Seaberg cultists, but that one's a slam dunk.

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    Comment number 11.

    Dont know if the film left me breathless, ill watch it later, but i left the intro after you started it with "So..". Very irritating.

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    Comment number 12.

    I'll have to check this out sometime (despite swearing to call off all movie watching til I'm done with uni studies), but I'll have to check out A Bout de Souffle first -- always gotta see the original first.

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    Comment number 13.

    I've seen it but what's the point in talking about it now. Unless you're in the first 9 or 10 comments, Mark probably isn't gonna read out anything you say anyway.

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    Comment number 14.

    Jonny616,comment 13.your completely wrong.Mark read 2 of my comments out and both were well down in the 40s and 70s comments number.Prehaps you need to write something witty or interesting to say.

    Mark, prehaps having a film that was available to 'watch now' on lovefilm would increase numbers of viewers on older films? Just a thought!

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    Comment number 15.

    I was surprisingly taken by Breathless and its energy. When watching Gere's ridiculous performance, my brain balked, but my heart couldn't help but go along with it. Comparing the film with A Bout De Souffle is not very helpful, because it is its own particular vision, and I have to say that I'm glad I watched it. Good call, Mark!

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    Comment number 16.

    Top marks for mentioning 'The Wrong Man' - A film i caught on Television late at night back in the day, The ending always stuck with me as does the ending in Breathless. Link Wray and Eno/Fripp on the same soundtrack? That is just something else! The shots of L.A. Remind me of To Live And Die In L.A. released two years later also.

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    Comment number 17.

    First time watching - I couldn't help but shamelessly enjoy its ridiculousness. I was also surprised by its brooding sense of humour, which was at times shameless fun but could also be quite knowing and grim.

    The award for the simultaneously best and worst fake road projections goes to the scenes wherein Richard Gere and Valerie Kaprinsky go for fast drives in the pink convertible - the road barely turns with the car, hilarious!

    Richard Gere's fashion also wins some awards in my books. Those are some trousers, sir.

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    Comment number 18.

    "In every sun-- in every star-- I see her face!" I don't know whether it was the ripest of ripe dialogue, the surreal chunks of Silver Surfer monologues, or the saturated technicolor palette, but Richard Gere's Hot Headed Street Punk© tour de force had its way with me in spite of every logical fibre of my being yelling "Neither real people nor any other fictional characters talk like this!!" Mark's breakdown of a classic RG performance needing Breathing, Blinking and Buns finally makes sense to me. It's a gem.

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    Comment number 19.

    The Onion AV Club did a good article on Breathless a while ago, which is what inspired me to see it: http://www.avclub.com/articles/breathless,59916/
    I actually love this film. I find the original to be that thing that one must never say about an old, foreign film - boring. I'm loathe to use the term but it's the most honest one. And for all Gere's character got flack for being unlikeable, I thought Belmondo's was painted in much the same way.
    Incidentally, I believe Godard signed the remake rights over to McBride on a napkin.

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    Comment number 20.

    Breathless is stylish, undoubtedly, and I do have a huge weakness for Richard Gere in just about everything. Saying that, I have big issues with even uttering it in the same breath as A Bout de Souffle, nevermind arguing that it's better. I'm not in the 'this movie is sacrilegious!' camp, but I just can't help but to feel that Breathless sucked all the free-spirited rough-edged joy from the original and covered it in tacky 80's gloss. The bit of dialogue about William Faulkner and the quip, 'Who's that, someone you slept with?' - is spoken as Valerie Kaprisky takes her top off, which sort of makes the wittiness fall flat, and I think that's the main problem with the movie. If it claims to be a remake, even a revised one, I can't help but to compare it to the original, and it really does lack all the wit and punchiness of A Bout de Souffle.


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