Arthur Penn's 1967 take on Bonnie and Clyde is one that is quite interesting. Instead of focusing on the violence that the duo committed on a daily basis, Penn chose to emphasize their obsessive desire to become household names. Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were not bloodthirsty thieves and killers that they have been made out to be by some. Rather, they were portrayed in the film as a more romanticized couple that were more out for fame and recognition than getting rich. Throughout the film, Bonnie is seen writing and reciting her poems that she hope will make it out to the media eventually. The Barrow Gang is often excited by reading about their violent ventures in the newspaper as well. However, the real life couple was much more murderous than they appeared on film. The film is still a very effective narrative of their lives. The depiction of the two in this film appeals to audiences because of their charm and charisma. If they were depicted as ruthless murderers, I'm sure that some would still find them very appealing because of the popularity that villains in pop culture. But they still would not have the popularity and fame that they achieved because of their M.O. They truly were the first celebrity antiheroes.
After the film’s initial release, Godard stated in an interview that he saw his film not as one strictly about youth but “more a film about the idea of youth. A philosophical idea, but not a practical one—a way of reacting to things. It’s not a dissertation on youth or even an analysis. Let’s say that it speaks of youth but it’s a piece of music, a ‘concerto youth’” (Godard). Masculin, Féminin is a film that definitely puts the ‘children of Marx and Coca-Cola’ on display in their own element. The story follows Paul, played by Jean-Pierre Leaud, as he passively-aggressively pursues an up-and-coming pop singer, Madeleine, played by real-life singer Chantal Goya. Throughout the narrative, Paul is forced to overcome ‘obstacles’ on his way to Madeleine’s heart…and legs.
Sex is the major premise behind the film. As the story unfolds, the plot is filled with numerous notable instances of sexual activity in the film. In the beginning of the film, Paul and his friend both brush against a woman’s breasts after asking her for some sugar. From this point on, the sexuality of the film only becomes more vulgar with each minute. There are scenes in which a group of nude women is talking about sex in a locker room, Paul and Madeleine play the name game for penis and vagina one night in bed, and Paul even walks in on a homosexuality act involving two men in a public bathroom. However, there is one scene in particular sums up the entire message of the film.
As a polltaker, Paul interviews a young woman who is not only a friend of Madeleine’s but also who was chosen as ‘Miss 19.’ During this interview, Paul asks her various questions ranging from the advantages and disadvantages of being ‘Miss 19’ and the current state of birth control in France. The conversation also includes her thoughts, rather the lack thereof, on other issues such as the pop music, the Vietnam War and socialism. This is not the only mention of these issues in the film. Through dialogue and encounters between various characters, Godard brings attention to these important issues of the time. Madeleine’s occupation as a singer brings many allusions to the American music scene at the time with references to The Beatles and Bob Dylan. Ironically enough, both of which became musical legends in their own right.
He also makes no effort to hide his dislike of the American involvement in the Vietnam War using Paul as his spokesman. “Paul is anti-bourgeois and resents America's involvement in Vietnam, but his gripes aren't anti-American per se. Godard considers pop culture a dangerous American export and he questions the political apathy of images and music that don't incite people to revolution” (Gonzalez). While waiting outside of a hospital housing many American soldiers, Paul creates a diversion that allows an American military car to become vandalized with “Peace in Vietnam.” He even yells, “US go home” to the soldier who was riding in the car. Godard also makes it known that he does not want American pop culture to infiltrate French society by allowing trivial things to create big problems. Not only does a guy who is extra serious about his pinball game almost kill Paul, but the lifestyle that Madeleine lives due to her occupation also bothers Paul throughout the film even to the point where an argument indirectly causes his death.
Week End is a 100-minute-long acid trip that makes Deliverance look like a boy scout nature walk on a Sunday afternoon. Jean-Luc Godard definitely left his mark on this 1967 film that can easily be argued as his most notorious work. The film begins with the married couple discussing a very intense sexual encounter that involves the wife, another couple, eggs, milk, oral sex, oral-to-anal sex, anal sex, and mutual masturbation. Along with being an extremely crude conversation, the scoring of the scene also makes it stand out in the minds of the audience. The volume of the music that plays beneath the scene raises as she describes the more taboo things she did that night. This effect is very effective for one main reason: it forces the audience to listen harder, and as they listen harder they are forced to hear the more hardcore actions of that evening.
Followed by this scene is one of the longest tracking shots that has ever been filmed. This shot shows the couple attempting to drive around an extremely long traffic jam that is filled with boats, broken down cars, blown up cars, dead bodies, monkeys, lions, kids on a field trip, and a family picnic. After murdering the mother of the bride, the couples ultimately ends up captured by a group of cannibals that murder the husband and happily feed his remains to his wife. As crazy as the film seems, Godard does a number of different things with all the chaos he creates on film.
Throughout the film, the couple encounters many extremely odd people that range from a killer magician to a jester poet. However, he uses these characters to raise awareness to many different societal issues that were going on at the time. Or possibly he just wanted to shed light on his own anarchic thoughts. Regardless, he manages to gain peoples attention with all of these different societal problems. Each of these unique characters bring up issues of anti-corporations, race relations, class issues, literature and history. On the surface Week End almost looks like an over-budgeted snuff film. However, Godard manages to bring up more societal issues within this film than any of his others we've seen.
Perriot Le Fou is a film based on Lionel White's novel, Obsession; it is also Jean-Luc Godard's tenth directorial work. The narrative follows Jean-Paul Belmondo and Godard's favorite leading lady (even though this was in production after their divorce), Anna Karina as they play two lovers on opposite ends of the spectrum. Ferdinand (Belmondo) leaves his wife and children for the babysitter, Marianne (Karina) after losing his job he held at a television station. As the film unfolds, the two lovers begin to narrate their love story. However, their back-and-forths begin to contradict what the other is saying. Not only that, they begin to play Bonnie and Clyde. They beat up people and jack their cars, commit a few murders, and of course they blow shit up. Most importantly, they both end up dead at the end of the film. Shocking.
However, Godard's use of lighting, shadows, and colors in the film is very vivid. More specifically, Godard uses the color red in much of the movie in various ways. In one of the first scenes, Godard goes over-the-top with his use of colors. In this party scene, the rooms are flooded with lights that change color from red to blue to green. The scene starts out all red until the nude blonde begins speaking and it suddenly changes to blue. He also dresses Karina in red for most of the film. The walls in her apartment are all bright white which allows her red clothing to stand out more against such a bland background (similar to A Woman is a Woman). Later in the film, the use of red is blatantly obvious. After the lovers are separated, she is wearing a red shirt when they finally reunite. During the heist sequence, Ferdinand's car is red, they run into a little girl wearing a red shirt, and Ferdinand, himself, is even wearing a red shirt under his suit. His choice to surround Karina's character with the color red could be an allusion to how he felt about her and their real-life romance before the divorce. Her dialogue is filled with complaints and double-crossing. Karina's character is even murdered while wearing a red shirt, which can definitely be seen as one final shot to her - no pun intended.
This film is much different than many of the other films from Truffaut. The style of the film is much more conducive to American audiences than some of his other works. The lack of New Wave characteristics such as out-of-context shots and extremely long tracking shots make the film much more 'Americanized' for the audience; meaning that for those who have only been familiar with American major motion pictures, the flow and story of the film easy for the audience to digest.
The Story of Adele H. is a film that follows the story of real life Adele Hugo, daughter of Victor Hugo. Adele travels to Nova Scotia in Canada in order to seek out her long, lost love Albert after he had joined the army. After the first ten minutes or so of the film, those in the audience who do not know the story behind the film are led to believe that this will be a beautiful story of separated lovers reconnecting and living happily ever after. However as the narrative of Adele H. unfolds, the audience is forced to bare witness to Fatal Attraction circa nineteenth century.
After learning that her former lover has no desire to continue on with their relationship, Adele resorts to an extremely delusional outlook on life. She spies on him at another woman's house and writes to Albert saying that "he is so handsome...he deserves all of the women in the world." When he denies the opportunity to not only have any woman he desires, but to also have Adele waiting on him at home, she slips further into her delusional world. Throughout the film, she lies to her parents to much that she ultimately digs herself so deep that she cannot get out of it any longer. She continuously writes home to her parents telling them that she and Albert will not only be married, but she also needs advances on her allowances in order to take care of the nonexistent wedding obligations.
As the film continues, we are hoping for Adele to finally realize that she is only slowly killing herself in order to chase Albert. However, it only gets worse. She dresses up as a man in order to sneak into a party to see him, she sends him prostitutes as 'gifts,' and she even resorts to speaking with a hypnotist to see if she can hypnotize Albert into loving her. Finally, just as in Fatal Attraction, he delusions and desperation inevitably lead to her downfall. Granted that Albert is no saint with his gambling debts and promiscuity around Nova Scotia, throughout the film Adele continues to go out of her way to make sure that if she cannot have him, no one will. After following his regiment to Barbados, she is found in the street after wandering like a peasant with the same dress she previously had on back in Nova Scotia. This callous persistency leads to a lonely existence until her death back in Paris.
Francois Truffaut's Day For Night is a very self-reflexive film that takes the audience through the arduous process of making a film. Every detail, both good and bad, is featured in this film. The documentary-style approach follows a director (actually played by Truffaut), his crew, and his cast as they make a film entitled Je Vous Presente Pamela. The cast each speak about the characters they play on screen. In one of the many comical moments of the film, the producer is asked something about the film by the one of the mock documentary crew and he yells back "the producer should stay out of sight."
The film also successfully depicts the nonstop headache the director endures over the course of trying to make a film. First, the actors create more drama off the camera then they do on it. Alphonse takes it upon himself to fall in love with someone who obviously does not feel the same way. This on-set romance quickly deteriorates and turns Alphonse into a moron off-screen. His erratic behavior ultimately leads to him almost destroying the marriage of his co-star Julie, who is also a head-case. Before she even arrives on set, Julie's reputation precedes her. In her previous film, she walked off production due to a breakdown she had, which also led to her marriage of the doctor who treated her (who left a 20 year marriage and kids behind also). This little act of infidelity causes halts to the shooting of the film and ultimately unnecessary problems for the production. The veteran actress of the film, Severine, allows her alcoholism to effect her acting; even to the point of not being able to even read her lines when they are taped on the wall in front of her. Alexandre, another veteran actor who also had an affair with Severine years ago, ends up being killed in a car accident at the end of the film. These are the problems just caused by the cast of Pamela. If it sounds like a bad soap opera, it definitely plays out that way.
Truffaut also makes may references to Hollywood and other directors of the time including, Hitchcock, Godard, Rosalini, and Bresson. Alexandre, who plays the stereotypical handsome, suave older gentlemen, constantly tells stories of his old projects in Hollywood to anyone who will listen; usually an attractive woman tends to lend an ear. To those who may not be very familiar with the process of making a film, Day For Night successfully portrays all of the good and bad of filmmaking. For those who have more experience with film, the argument can be made that the film romanticizes the filmmaking process. In the end, with the exception of a death, the film was made successfully. Most know that is definitely not always the case in the real world.
Jean-Luc Godard's Alphaville is a science-fiction film that deviates from other films in his catalogue. While the film contains the usual characteristics of a New Wave film by Godard - i.e. tracking shots that take forever, out-of-sequence shots that make no sense, and severe manipulation of sound, the premise of the film is very odd. Godard is known for coming up with some very weird stories in his films. Keeping that in mind, even this film is a stretch for him. The film is shot in modern-day France (at the time, of course) and is supposed to represent a futuristic society. Godard even uses small inferences to make reference to the present time we live during the film. Caution mentions that he drives a Ford Galaxy, - a somewhat comedic reference to both the present and to signify they are in the future.
There are hardy any shots in the film that take place during the day. The final sequence of the film shows Caution and Natasha driving away from Alphaville (in his Galaxy) on a highway at night. The overhead shooting of the scene, along with the lighting that the street lights provide, attempts to give the illusion of driving away in space. Given the time in which the film was produced, it is an effective shot for the film. As the narrative unfolds on screen, it becomes more and more difficult to take the film seriously. In Alphaville, women are treated as nothing more than sex slaves and servants for an obviously extremely male-dominated society. Even the computer that controls Alphaville, Alpha 60, has the voice of a raspy man. All of the women are branded by numbers and have a very weird tendency to say "I'm well, thank you" to men even when they are not even asked. Instead of coming off as shocking and unbelievable to us, it comes off simply as just being weird and almost comical. Granted that outside of some very intense Star Wars fans, there are not that many people when watching a sci-fi film they actually feel like that are in some alternate universe. With that being said, I do not expect to become lost into a different world when watching a film such as this. The only realistic expectation anyone can make is that we hope to be entertained somehow. Don't get me wrong, I was entertained, just not exactly in the way as Mr. Godard would have hoped.
Godard's Les Caribiniers is a film that is very explicit about pointing out the pointlessness of war. The film is almost cartoonish in the way it unfolds. It revolves around two men who are 'drafted' into a war involving their country as a "favor to the king." Michelangelo and Ulysses jump to the chance of fighting for their king, whom obviously takes such good care of them. They live in an extremely deserted area in a house that looks as if it were made with a 'Lincoln Logs' set. The soldiers who come to recruit them promise the two geniuses of Maseratis, Rolls Royces, women, priceless works of art, power, stabbing guys in the back, etc. Of course, they are on board. Ironically enough, the two women in their lives are just as eager for them to go as they are. Most women would be afraid for their men to go put their lives on the line. However, Venus and Cleopatra literally kick them out of the house to go so they can get their share of the treasure upon their courageous return.
From this point on, the cartoon only gets more amusing with each scene. They take the fact that they can operate without consequence to heart. They break into homes and steal from the people living there, they force women to undress in front of them, and they even steal a car and kidnap the woman riding inside of it. The worst, however, is their use of extreme violence. Granted that they are 'soldiers' doing nothing more than following orders, the extent to which they take the violence is very excessive. They march people in secluded areas for their execution. Michelangelo is usually not happy with the result as he continues shooting the already slain victims.
Godard's use of all this over-the-top activities only makes his mockery of war more effective. With the two women constantly prancing and spinning around and Michelangelo running around a movie theatre so that he may get a better angel to see the woman undressing on screen, it makes everything else that is happening around them even more absurd. The postcard sequence is a vivid example of this. It is not only the longest running sequence in the film, but it is also the most absurd. When the men return from war without expensive dresses and makeup, the women are extremely angry with them. That is until they see all of the 'deeds' of the property that were brought back to them. Michelangelo and Ulysses bring back hundreds of postcards thinking that they are deeds for all of the property that are shown on them. They bring back tons of postcards of cars and ancient monuments thinking that they will own all of these things once the war is won. However, it is the gullibility that is ultimately their demise. When they are informed that they actually lost the war, they are killed for committing war crimes against the new state. Tough break indeed.
Godard's Vivre Sa Vie is a film that has a very unique style to it. The film is shot in a very unusual way when compared to other films of the same genre. During a few of the dialogue scenes, the camera is facing the back of the character that is speaking. This gives the audience a feeling that we are eavesdropping on the conversation as it is taking place. Furthermore, much of the camera movement throughout the film is very static. The camera focuses on only one person during other dialogue scenes. Instead of seeing what is going on around that character or even gaging the response of the person being spoken with, the audience only sees one person speaking. This technique is effective because it gives us a sense that we are the people being spoken to. During the 'new wave trademark' tracking shots, the camera is also focused on one person; usually from the front and also from the side at times. Again, it forces us to focus on that specific character instead of getting caught up in what is taking place around them.
The narrative is also as peculiar as the way it was shot. The film is broken up into different sections or 'scenes' - all with different titles for each individual section of the film. Also, the dialogue of the film alludes to the fact that there are things that take place in between sections that is not shown on camera. This also makes the film very effective for a variety of reasons. The main reason being that it allows the audience to recreate the action in our own heads. The most effective films are the ones that play on the emotions of the people that are watching them. If you are watching a film and you leave without a very strong opinion or feeling about it then the film was obviously ineffective in really reaching you. However, this film has the ability to allow the audience to create important parts of the narrative on their own. Ultimately, it makes the film more interesting as well. This particular style the film possess gives it a very unique look and feel to it.
From the opening credit sequence, the film is very effective with keeping the audience's attention. However, the way the film succeeds in doing so is very peculiar. The film is centered on Angela, a woman has a very strange way about her. From the beginning of the film, Godard makes it very clear that he intends to make her stand out as much as she can. Her wardrobe in the film definitely coincides with what Godard had intended for Angela's character. She is often wearing red throughout the film. Her wearing red often makes her stand out against the bland scenery surrounding her. Even during her 'performance,' she was wearing her usual flamboyant getup for it. However, the spotlight used a few different camera filters to project a different light on her face; again, in order to make her stand out.
The score of the film also helps to emphasize all of this as well. Often times during the film, the music will drop out and she will be speaking. Sometimes there will be no music at all and the surrounding characters in the film all gawk at her like a bunch of horny schoolchildren. Her personality is also very comparable to the clothes she wears. It seems as if she thinks that her life is a feature length film and she is the leading lady. She often goes off on these very odd monologues during which she does not make much sense most of the time. She is extremely eccentric to the point of almost being very childish. Especially during one scene where her and her lover, Emile are having a fight in bed. Instead of talking it out, they choose to not speak to each other. Not only do they not speak to each other, they finish their fight by finding words on the covers of her books to take jabs at each other. Clever. At least she is true to the woman she portrays, she ends the film by saying "not damn me, but a dame, me.
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, directed by Jacques Demy and released in 1964, is a new wave musical that is also part of a trilogy. This film sets between the Young Girls of Rochefort and Lola; both of which were also directed by Demy. Stylistically, the film is extremely vivid; almost to the point of distraction. Every scene throughout the film is filled with extremely vivid colors. Each set design is filled with very bright red, green, and blue colors on the walls. Each character complements the vivid scenery as well. The women in the film are dressed in very bright dresses with bright makeup and lipstick. However, their dress colors often go against the color scheme of the set which only enhances an already vivid film.
As a musical, the film moves in a very peculiar way. There is absolutely no regular dialogue spoken in the entire film. Every word of every line that each character has is sung rather than spoken. Granted that the film is obviously a musical, there are other musicals that do incorporate even a little spoken dialogue between characters.
However, the narrative does stand up against the odd formula the film follows. This is only because the ending of the film does not necessarily the eerie jubilant feeling the film has even during the 'depressing' moments. In the final scene of the film, Guy is asked by his former love if he wants to meet his daughter that he has with her, he simply declined. Roll Credits.
Shoot the Piano Player by François Truffaut is a film that is filled with both noir and new wave qualities. Staying true to the new wave with the typical elements such as extremely long tracking shots, harsh cutting and out-of-context scenes, Tirez Sur Le Pianiste uses noir characteristics such as low-key lighting, shadows, and a character narrating during a scene. The film is also extremely fast paced. The plot of the film is extremely fast moving with very little throwaway action and dialogue.
On the more entertainment side of things, this film is more humorous than any of the other films I have seen this semester. The two thugs in particular are especially entertaining. Their conversations with the other characters in the film all center on women in short skirts, how they rob other people, and how to deal with relationships with the opposite sex. More specifically, when it comes to women, they “lay ‘em and leave ‘em.” One of the thugs even shared an experience he had when he tried on his sister’s panties. One other scene that sticks out is the fight scene between Charlie and his boss from the restaurant. It is a cross between a scene from the Three Stooges and a second-grade-schoolyard-slap-fight that ultimately leads to the boss getting stabbed in the back, literally. Go figure.
This film by Eric Rohmer is the third film in the series entitled, “Six Moral Tales.” It stays very true to its new wave roots. My Night is filled with numerous extremely long tracking shots. The dialogue sequences in the film are also very interesting. In most of the dialogue scenes, when one of the character’s would be speaking, the camera is centered on someone who reacting to what’s being said. Particularly, the camera often centered on Vidal and his extremely drunken actions while the other two were conversing.
Along with the camera work of the dialogue sequences, the dialogue itself was equally interesting. At the very least, it could hold someone’s attention long enough to understand what is going on. But I digress; the content of the film is centered on issues such as Christianity, Protestantism, sex, sex, and more sex. Not to mention that our choirboy is quite the playboy. A single man nowadays should envy him. He gets to not only indulge his dark, mysterious, and sinful side but he also gets to have his innocent, blonde church girl too. Not only that, but he ends up marrying the blonde. Well-done sir.
Last Year at Marienbad is a very peculiar film that vividly displays all of the qualities of classic new wave cinema. The film is filled with extremely long tracking shots that follow the characters walk through different rooms and interrupt and pick up on conversations being held with the background characters. It also uses a very overpowering organ to score the film. During these long shots that have the narrator describing the shot, the organ music gives the scene a very eerie and ominous tone.
The film is also very reminiscent to Resnais' Hiroshima Mon Amour which preceded this film. Similar to its precedent, Last Year contains a very similar plot formula: guy-chases-girl-entire-film-girl-doesn't-want-guy-but-guy-keeps-chasing-her-anyway. The film also ends with a very ambiguous ending just like the other film. However, this film is much more experimental. The plot is not linear at all. The audience is forced with having to decipher what is reality and what is a dream throughout the film. The story cross-cuts between the present time and the action that took place a year prior. However, with the continuous cross-cutting and story switches, the film is extremely hard to follow; especially up to its extremely abrupt and ambiguous ending.
With the first James Bond film not debuting until 1956 with "Dr. No," "High Roller" Bob was Bond before Bond came to the big screen. "Bob Le Flambeur" is a film that has the ability to stay relatively current even fifty years later. This film has obvious influence on both the films of the Bond franchise and also other films such as the "Ocean's..." franchise and other heist films. In the film, Bob is an old-time thief still looking for his big break. He gets the chance when he hears of a local hotel that has cash beyond his wildest dreams. Before the plan is set in motion, he abides by all of the Bond-like playboy rules that have been set since Bond has taken over in the U.S:
Rule number 1: Dress the Part.
- Bob has a different suit for every different mood he has. In every scene, he is dressed to the nine's in a different suit he had been wearing before.
Rule number 2: Display Swagger.
- That's right, I said it. Bob has swagger. He displays a sort of confidence that is unrivaled by anyone else in the film. Of course with the exception of his young protege, who is only trying to emulate Bob's every action.
Rule number 3: Be a Womanizer.
- While Mr. 007 shows an extreme affection for married woman, our man Bob doesn't discriminate. Whether its the gorgeous blonde, played by the beautiful Isabelle Corey, or the older woman who works at his favorite watering hole, Bob loves women.
Rule number 4: Get Money.
- Not only does Bob finally catch that streak of luck he's been looking for all of his life, but he manages to put together a very intricate plan to rob the bank. Even though the plan was sabotaged in very Bond-like fashion by a jealous and greedy woman, Bob still ends up with his share of cash in the end.
With all of this, it's not surprising to see the new age heist films of the day still thieving, pun intended, from old French New Wave Cinema.
This particular film is centered on very ironic bases. First, the particular score of the film gives the overall tone a very ironic feeling. In the beginning of the film, the remains of Hiroshima are shown in a very documentary-like style. During these shots of debris, burned down buildings, people being trapped and being forced to break out, severely burned victims with their bodies being reduced to bones and scars, the nondiagesis is relatively light-hearted for something that has become so devastated. The use of these shocking images also adds a sense of shock value to the film. The story itself is also relatively ironic. The audience is introduced to the two lovers in the film during the description of war-torn Hiroshima. The contrast between their skin rubbing against each other and the destruction of the city is very vivid.
It's also very ironic that there are so many tragic stories being told in the middle of a tragedy. Granted that the war is over, the memory and the impact that it had on Hiroshima is very prevalent throughout the film. It is very interesting that not only is this love affair just that -- an affair. But this mutual love and admiration is also brought about by war. They even feel as if they should decide to leave each other, they will only be brought back together by another war. The ambiguous ending of the film only echoes this sentiment.
Pickpocket is a film that is centered on the life of a smalltime pickpocket after the death of his mother. In the opening sequence, Michel, the main character, is writing a letter about his past that leads into a scene at a racetrack. During the scene, he steals money from a woman’s purse and is later arrested for it. During the stealing sequence, the ‘complex sign’ is at work. The natural sign is comprised of the outdoor scene and all of the people who are at the racetrack; mainly focusing on Michel and the lady he is attempting to steal from. The conventional signs of this sequence include the outdoor scene and the transitional shots between his face and his hand on the purse. The sounds and lack thereof in this sequence are also an important part of the conventional sign. In the beginning of the sequence, there are sounds of a train and people talking with each other all around. As the scene continues, there is the also sound of the horses on the racetrack which allows Michel to steal the lady’s money. However, the lack of sound comes with the lack of clear dialogue.
The main focus of this sequence is Michel and his attempt at stealing from the lady’s purse. With the lack of dialogue between him and anyone else, the audience is forced to focus on the facial expressions of Michel – which leads to the expressive sign of the sequence. Throughout the sequence, Michel is shot in the center of the frame in a close-up. As the sequence unfolds, his facial expressions display emotions ranging from complete focus and tension to nervousness and fear and finally to relief as he successfully snatches the money.
The film also fulfills other Formalistic qualities. The fabula and sjuzhet, or story and plot, work to make the film more artistic. The fabula of the film is simply the story being told of a pickpocket. The sjuzhet of the film complicates the fabula with the use of certain artistic devices such as the flashback and beginning scenes ‘in medias res’; and thus, defamiliarizes the story for the audience. The previously mentioned sequence begins in the middle of the action. Instead of the audience seeing Michel prepare for his theft attempt and his arrival at the racetrack, the scene opens with Michel scoping out his victim. Even before that, the film opens with Michel writing a letter which makes the racetrack sequence and, subsequently, the entire film one big flashback sequence. With the sjuzhet altering the fabula in this way, it allows the imagination of the audience to work to fill in the gaps and answer the ambiguous questions left by the film in their own way.
Breathless is a film that pays homage to the gangster films in the U.S. of the 50s and 60s.From the very opening sequence, the film is very fast paced. In the first few scenes of the film, Michel, played by Jean-Paul Belmondo, not only steals a car, but he also murders a cop in the process. The story is not the only fast-moving aspect of the film. The film itself has a very head-spinning quality with the use of jump cuts, handheld camera work, and extremely long tracking shots.
From then on, he carries himself in such a way that is extremely reminiscent to the archetypal gangster characters of the same time; especially his hero, Humphrey Bogart. He constantly smokes cigarettes and rubs his lips in a similar fashion to Bogart. Besides the obvious resemblance that Michel bares to Bogart, the film itself makes reference to him a few times. In one particular scene, Michel is being shot staring at a film poster for one of Humphrey’s films.
The film possesses one other very important aspect of the 1950’s gangster films: the femme fatale character. Patricia, played by Jean Seberg, proves to be Michel’s downfall at the end of the film. Throughout the story, Michel is constantly trying to pursue Patricia, even the morning after she had slept with someone else. He does so in a way that would make any wannabe 50’s gangster proud: constantly berating her, slapping her around, yelling at her – he definitely follows the proper protocol for ‘Womanizing in the Sixties.’
The Appeal of The 400 Blows
This, the first of Truffaut’s feature films, has a very interesting appeal. The story centering on Antoine Doniel is one that is very unique for various reasons. Throughout the film, Antoine receives severe consequences for his continuous bad behavior that he displays. He acts out toward all of the adult figures in his life; especially when it comes to his parents. His mother shows a constant irritability towards him every time they are in the same room together. After learning that not only his mother bore him out of wedlock, but she also would have aborted him had not his grandmother talked her out of it, Antoine developed a little attitude problem – and rightfully so.
However, this acting out is also appealing to audiences because it is often displayed in a comedic manner. Particularly, the scene where the kids leave their teacher one by one is especially memorable. The way the scene is shot gives a very unique and omniscient view of how mischievous the kids are in the film. They write obscenities on school walls, fight during recess, drink their parents’ wine and smoke their father’s cigars, gouge their classmate’s glasses, and lie about their mothers being murdered. And ironically, whenever something like this happens, the scene carries a very joyous and uplifting score underneath it, which serves to add to the film’s appeal.
The performance of the actors also enhances the story. The film does not put a great deal of emphasis on the dialogue between characters. Even though that we learn of the skeletons in the Doniel’s closet through the dialogue between the family members, the film puts more emphasis on the non-speaking actions of the characters. Antoine rarely displays any sort of raw emotion in the film except for in a few key scenes. During the scene at the amusement park ride, Antoine shows true happiness and allows the audience to see a very innocent and childlike image of him that obviously does not permeate throughout the film. All of these various devices used by the film help to both enhance the story being told and also to better appeal to audiences.