Our full upcoming schedule is available online:
Friday & Saturday, December 3 & 4
Celebrating Godard's 80th Birthday!
BREATHLESS (1959; Jean-Luc Godard) The word "masterpiece" has been tossed around so often in this age of movie hype and hyperbole that it has all but lost its meaning. But the word "landmark," while perhaps not implying as much about the work, is much less frequently heard. Why? Because it cannot with any seriousness be bestowed upon a work of art absent the passage of time. In a culture of instant gratification that seeks to package movies as consumer product, where the formats in which a movie is available are often more important than the movie itself, a word or phrase requiring patience is a much less attractive one. But there is little doubt that for a generation of critics and filmgoers Breathless was a turning point, the unveiling of a new directorial sensibility where the iconography and attitudes of old Hollywood met the cresting soon-to-be-dubbed French New Wave. Breathless brought with it a whole new attitude about contemporary society and film architecture that could be folded into the most familiar of genre tropes with bracing, shocking results that continue to resonate within the grammar of films made 50 years after its initial release. (One need only imagine Breathless, in which Jean-Paul Belmondo co-opts the image and insolence of Humphrey Bogart on a crime spree with the lovely and reticent Jean Seberg, on a double feature with last week's Bonnie and Clyde to get a sense of how Godard's movie created waves that are still rocking the boat.) This print is the beautifully restored version on view in theaters this past summer, struck to celebrate the 50th anniversary of a movie that, alongside subsequent complacency-shattering films like Psycho, Bonnie and Clyde and The Wild Bunch, demarcates the emergence of a singular vision signaling the end of the Production Code and the breaking down of walls between "high" and "low" culture. Few films made after, say, 1962 could be said to have not at least registered the presence of Breathless along the timeline of film history. That it is such an integral part of the D.N.A. of most of those films, consciously or subconsciously, only speaks to its status as a true cinema landmark.