Film Analysis: Breathless

Breathless (À Bout de Souffle) was a “New Wave” film released in 1960 France and was directed by Jean-Luc Godard. The script was written by Godard and François Truffaut, both of whom were writers for the Cahiers du Cinéma, a journal for cinema. Breathless centers around a petty womanizing car thief, Michel, who by misfortune ends up killing a police officer, and tries to convince an American girl, Patricia, to run away with him to Italy.
In a previous scene, Michel had taken the keys to Patricia’s apartment without the knowledge of the desk clerk. In this scene Patricia is finally going back to her apartment and notices the keys aren’t there. The desk clerk claims she must have left it in the door to her apartment. When she gets into her apartment she notices that Michel is in her bed. This scene carries significant traits of the French New Wave in its display. We see the emphasis of material, making the audience aware of the filming process (rather than plot, which this scene falls far away from), by use of a handheld camera and direct sound. There is also the use of jump cuts again rendering us to be aware that we are watching a film. The discontinuity prohibits us from really getting into the narrative of Michel being a man who’s on the run from the law. Making the audience think and having traits that are anti-narrative the scene is a good example of the New Wave’s idea of rebelling against the traditional narratives of “cinéma de papa.” Godard wants us to think about literature, love, relationships, discourse, human interactions, philosophy, and social ideas. Because this scene stirs so far away from the narrative, there is a blurring of fiction and reality and aids the audience in thinking more about their own reality. Since this scene is over twenty minutes long, I will only be focusing on just the first half of the scene.
The music that opens the scene when Patricia enters her bedroom and finds Michel lying in her bed is a jazzy piano American tune. It gives a different tone to the film, which is set in France. There is a quick medium shot of Michel in the bed and then a long shot of Michel and Patricia. The camera stays fixed for a while and part of Patricia’s body is cut out. This feeds to the blurring of fiction and reality because it resemebles the documentary style in a way by having people partially out of the view of the camera and such a natural setting. Then we go to a medium shot of Patricia through the mirror. The shot shows the back of her head and shoulder, the mirror, and her reflection. The camera stays to the side rather than simply showing Patricia’s reflection at the center. By keeping the camera at this angle gives the affect that the camera will be seen through the window, behind Patricia. Here we can see Godard really playing the idea of a documentary and a fiction film. You can also see the screen slightly moving, suggesting that there is a use of a handheld camera. There are medium shots from Michel to Patricia in the mirror and then a jump shot of Michel looking to the mirror, again the camera is off to the side at an angle to not expose it through the mirror. Then there is medium shot of the two on the bed with their backs to the camera. The music cuts off for a moment and the lighting seems to be coming from the window, really highlighting the realistic approach Godard is going for. The dialogue that the two are sharing is very natural as well. Firstly, Patricia was not at all displeased that Michel was sleeping in her bed in her absence. There aren’t talking about anything vastly important to the plot but rather the thing Patricia is currently not thinking about.
In the background we can hear birds chirping and other noises from the outside. A medium shot of the two in bed with Michel lying and Patricia on her knees holding a teddy bear. A very relaxed and intimate moment. After a while, the music comes back on. Michel has been questioning Patricia about whether she slept with her colleague and the discussion is very witty. Michel claims that he is there to sleep with Patricia and the conversation circles on love and sex. It makes us question at what means to we decide to have sexual intercourse with someone and how do we define what love is. We also wonder whether Michel is sincere with his “love” or is just saying anything to get Patricia to sleep with him. There is then a close up of a magazine that Michel is holding and there are several jump shots as he flips the pages. Showing the magazine of naked women really isn’t showing much significance, but shows great relation to the kind of man that Michel is. Continually talking about sex and we’ve seen him mingle with numerous women.
We then go out to a medium shot again this time more to their left side. Michel continues to ask Patricia to sleep with him and he rummages through her things a bit, she mentions for them to be like Romeo and Juliet and the camera cuts to a drawing on the wall of Romeo and Juliet, and then back to the two. They play a weird game together. Something really natural and authentic. There is a close up of Patricia’s face with Michel’s hands around her neck. He’s counting up to eight for her to smile, and if she doesn’t he’ll strangle her. He counts up to seven and three quarters, calls her a coward, and then she smiles. Patricia says she’s done with the games and walks over Michel. He touches her butt and she lays a stinging slap on his face. There are medium shots of him on the bed and her at the window. All the while the camera still slightly shakes. Michel sways back in forth in this dialogue. He insults Patricia one moment and then praises her the next. For someone who is requesting sex he isn’t really cautious of his actions towards her. In no way is he romancing her. There’s a medium shot and Patricia asks about Michel’s passport which he says is his brother’s. This kind of leads us back to the story and brings to our remembrance the fact that Michel is on the run and wants to leave for Italy. As they smoke and Patricia turns away from him and open the window, we hear the sounds of outside and the actual world, again aiding to the documentary affect. Michel asks if Patricia ever thinks of death and in this intimate moment the audience’s mind is reeling to think about death. However, Patricia turns around and tells him to say something nice, completely shifting the tone. The conversation dwindles into things less meaningful. It takes the course of normal conversation. He eventually declares that he has something nice to say and says he wants to sleep with Patricia because she is beautiful. When she denies she is, he says because you’re ugly then. A really interesting approach in trying to make Patricia have sex with him. His requests aren’t eager but persistent. Patricia leaves with her poster in hand and walks right over the view of the camera another interesting affect which plays more to reality. There’s a close up of Michel and the camera slowly moves up to a drawing above him and then moves back down to him and then to Patricia with her poster rolled up. They stare at each other and she looks through the folded poster and the camera follows her gaze through the poster. This was one of the few real cinematic affects used and geared more to the fact that it is a movie and not a documentary. As the camera closes up to Michel it then cuts to Patricia and Michel with their lips pressed together as the camera pans out. It then jump cuts to Patricia putting up a poster. Michel requests to make a call and again we are thrust back into a bit of the plot with Michel trying to reach his friend who owes him money.
The entire scene could be seen as elliptical editing. We were shifted to Patricia’s apartment and we stay there for an extremely long time. We’re only to focus on the two’s interaction and the various things they talk about. The acting was very fluid and natural and at moments could even have been improvised. We can really get the sense that this movie-making-process was something that was constructed along the way of the film being shot. As Godard says the film is a search and he goes about it in that way. Godard stays true to his love for the documentary films and professional actors really pull the feat off. Thought they talk about sex and play around with each other, there’s no sense of voyeurism or of the viewer invading a private moment because it felt so like a documentary film and that these people chose to have their lives recorded for us to see. The twenty minute scene managed to stay entertaining for us somehow and not drag out. This scene was a really compelling moment for us though there was no sexual intercourse, violence, or change of setting.

Breathless

I really enjoyed Michel. Yes, he was a jerk, a womanizer, a killer, a thief, and a crook, I enjoyed him! He was certainly a unique character and apparently very charismatic. I think his lines were hilarious and real. It was always pleasant seeing him on screen. His relationship with Patricia was really interesting and I was always curious why she stayed with him as long as she did. Why did she stay with him at all and just to turn on him in the end anyway. There was some amazing shots that visually made the movie unique (I will go into detail on this for my film analysis). I think the French New Wave was a great time for new expression and techniques. I believe the decisions directors made, (whether lack of traditional technique or creative choices) worked well and did not bother me at all. This move has surely made me interested in seeing more New Wave films and especially Jean-Luc Godard’s films.

Hitchcock

Surely my favorite Hitchcock movie. I’ve also seen “The Birds” when I was younger but I don’t think it has the edge as “Psycho” does. The fact that “Psycho” was in black and white only enhanced the horror and the uncanny feel. I found the music to be SO on point. The opening scene with the camera spanning over the landscape of the city and the music had already peaked my interest. We then become voyeur’s as we peer through the window and intrude on the two lovers. It was unfortunate the circumstances in which Marion left on but it was convenient enough for her to have the money and it gave the plot an edge of this pleasant woman becoming a thief and running away to presumingly be with Sam. Norman was just a creepy character. His boyish look and childlike mannerism just made him all the more creepy. Even when he spoke of his mother. I did see the movie before so I know that Norman was psychologically disturbed and was dressing as his mother. But I was able to focus and enjoy the smaller things of the movie that I have overlooked before. The eerie silence before Marion is killed in the shower is probably the loudest thing ever and the stabbing sound the music makes was extremely effective. How the camera was able to allude the actual penetration of the knife and conceal Marion’s nakedness was done very well also. I enjoyed the cross-cutting between Sam and Norman with Lila’s search of the house. That’s a classical form of suspense and it ALWAYS works! I think the speech the psychologist gave at the end was wonderful! I don’t know why I enjoyed it but it was great how he revealed Norman’s past and the fact that he had killed his mother and who knows the amount of people he had killed also. It was really good stuff. Dreadfully there are sequels to this which I could never get through and I suggest you not bother with them either.

Film Analysis: The Lady Eve

The Lady Eve (Paramount) opened in theatres in 1941 and was directed by Preston Sturges. It starred Henry Fonda and Barbara Stanwyk as our dainty couple, Charles and Jean. Jean Harrington is an extremely attractive con-woman who has mistakenly fallen in love with her prey, the handsome and wealthy Charles Pike, on a cruise ship from South America. When Charles finds out of her initial intentions, he breaks off the relationship and leaves the boat and Jean behind. Jean is later able to find out about Charles’ whereabouts and decides to return to his life as a British woman, Eve, as revenge for Charles’ mistreatment. Ironically, Charles falls for Eve as well, who later turns out to not be who he thought she was. They marry and get divorce within days. Charles returns back to the ship where he encounters Jean again, whom he quickly embraces as though he hasn’t seen her in months.

In this scene of The Lady Eve (Sturges, Paramount, 1941), the dapper Charles Pike, the son of the owner of Pike’s Pale, sits in the dining area of the cruise ship, and has aroused great interest from the female guest. Sturges uses music, a string ensemble, to set an airy and delicate mood throughout the scene, a mixture of framing (long shot, medium shot, and medium close-up), unique camera angles, and an interesting technological shot through a compact mirror, to emphasize the female prowess (golddigger) on a wealthy young man. Female sexuality is being used to attain higher economical status and recognition.  Their attempts are futile and so are many other working class peoples who try to gain access into higher classes. Yet, Jean’s subtle, cunning, and highly effective way of gaining Charles’ attention, is also a way of the crooked and con’s way of infiltrating a higher economic status. Though the scene is heavily comedic, it can be related to the hardships and the societal economic issues of that time.

The scene opens with a long shot of a packed dining area and a string music ensemble to set the light mood. Then there is a medium shot from behind the bartender looking outward over the dining area. We are looking over the bartenders shoulder at the waiters who constantly approach the bar, asking for ‘Pikes Pale’. Already all the guests are enthralled by the fact that a renowned, young, millionaire is in their presence and continue to order the ale, if not be for taste, for making an impression on Charles. “They don’t want nothing else. They want ‘The Ale that won for Yale, rah, rah, rah,’” says one of the waiters, showing that Charles’ presence has surely made up a stir. Our next shot is a close up on the book Charles is reading, Are Snakes Necessary? He seems to be completely engrossed in his own world not paying any mind to anyone else. The camera zooms out and we get a medium shot of Charles who finally looks up and notices a table fool of devoted Pikes Pale drinkers. All flaunting their glasses and bottles and cheery grins. It’s a great medium shot to show the table’s unified attempt at grasping Charles’ attention. W come back to Charles who looks away and notices another table with all eyes pinned in his direction.  Here there’s somewhat of a shallow depth of field with objects beyond the table and in front of the table, blurry.  Again, Charles looks back to his book and then notices a young woman batting her eyes at him. She looks quite fluorescent with a medium close-up. The lighting magnifies how attractive she seems but she hasn’t been able to holds Charles’ attention as he looks over to another women sensually biting a cigarette holder. Charles is seriously uncomfortable at this point, shifts his weight and turns to the other side to see a woman, whose face indicates that she finds her ale distasteful but is then called to attention by her friend, and pastes on a lovely smile at Charles.  Charles quickly sticks his head back into is book. We already get the sense that Charles isn’t the suave ladies’ man who would gladly entertain the stare of these many women. It’s apparent that he is much more cautious as to who he approaches and who he entertains. He finds this attention unsettling as he seems to be the only prey in a sea of sharks.

We then go to a medium-shot of Jean and her father Colonel Harrington. She sits at the table with a compact mirror reflecting where Charles is sitting. Unlike the other women, she’s in all black. We already get the sense that she’s sultry, seductive, and intelligent.  She declares that none of the women in the room is good enough for him and begins to speak very theatrically, detailing every moment and emotion of Charles and the other women. Then we get an extremely beautiful long shot of Charles’ table through the mirror that Jean is holding. She speaks as a voice-over to the action taking place at Charles’ table. A wonderfully choreographed scene with each female attempting to lure Charles into their web. It’s a great shot mainly due to Jean’s commentary of the action and even a portion of role playing as she says the lines for one of the women that approach Charles and his responses.  Her comments are tremendously funny and she downplays every girl that passes. The camera moves through the compact mirror while we see her hand holding the mirror and is in slight motion. She exploits and ridicules all of the female’s attempts to get Charles attention and eventually Charles decides to leave.

There’s a medium shot of Jean sticking out her foot as Charles trips over and falls on a waiter. The two stand face to face. Charles in an all white suit and Jean in a black dress. Now, we clearly see some mischievous intentions of this fascinating lady and the contrast with the ‘bookworm’ Charles. Jeans tells Charles that he’s broken her shoe and speaks rapidly telling him he will accompany her to her cabin to get another pair of shoes, Charles obliges and introduces himself, Jean responds nonchalantly, introduces Charles to her father, and quickly hurries him off. She has quickly captivated his attention and he’s unknowingly, already, bitten the fruit that will rattle his world. Then there’s a long shot of the two exiting off as everyone in the dining area watches them. Jean hooks on to Charles and waltzes, with a limp, out of the area, with a grin of victory. Jean’s “Funny our meeting like this isn’t?” claims to be a series of coincidence, but was only due to her plotting. The obvious flaunting by the other women exposed themselves to be dangerous and just unappealing. They all desire a chance to snag the rich guy and to get access to another economic level. Though the comedy may be seen as just pure entertainment, it showed the economic reality of everyone trying to get out of the dumps and gain a greater economic status by any means.

In this scene, female sexuality was revealed in a slight way, but was unable to be successful. In later scenes, Jean, flaunts her sexuality and eventually succeeds in luring Charles in and deceiving him into losing money. In tough circumstances, many are unable to “play fair” in their lives and become con-men and women, using deception to move up in society. Jean’s move was subtle but very effective and it helped her gain the access to wealth.

…Rosebud

First, I must say that Orson Welles is an incredible actor. I really enjoyed him through out the movie and I favored him onset more than any of the other actors, no offense. I also think he did a wonderful directing and collaborating with Mankiewicz on the screenplay. I didn’t know much about him or really took in any of this in consideration when I watched the movie passively before. I found the news reel in the beginning a little long and I kind of had a lapse in concentration, but it did bring me up to speed about who Kane was and how he was received by the public and some other things that the storyline in the movie left out. The scene with the journalist right after the news reel reminded me of “Good Night and Good Luck” starring George Clooney and Grant Heslov. That movie was done in black and white and almost had the exact scene of the reporters discussion after watching a news reel. The storyline was interesting. It kinda irked me that I never saw Thomas’ face throughout the movie but it was a compelling drive to find out what “rosebud” meant. Kane was such an iconic figure and understood how that could be so important. It was enough for the plot. Rosebud being symbolic of his hometown and his days as a child and his family was revealed to us but not to the characters. They were unable to receive that revelation of this powerful man and it gave us the humanity that they weren’t ever able to get. Visually, this movie could rival some and even better some of the films that come out today. Each shot could have been a photograph in an art gallery. They were really crisp and clear, which was due to the deep focus. It played a major part in keep the overall view of movie as good as it was. The contrasts of dark and light really showed the idea of “American Baroque”. Characters in speech had their faces shadowed while others were lit. Even Kane’s palace was designed in real grandeur and extremely over the top. The camera angles were interesting, almost an entire scene was shot from the ground. Some great innovative things were happening in the movie.

The Public Enemy

Soooo last class we watched “The Public Enemy” a 1931 black n white film. It started off pretty odd for me with the two random kids drinking, what i had initially thought was milk, beer. Later I noticed it was just foreshadowing the kind of lives that Tom and Matt would take later on. Hoodlums and “gangsters” always seem to come out of broken homes and dysfunctional families, but Tom’s brother, Mike was able to grow up and become someone and live an honest life. However, at a young age, we noticed Tom as a trouble-maker and a boy that would probably grow up to be someone of a gangster nature. He had a quick mouth and brought fear to a lot of people. However, his brother always seems to overtake him. I really found it funny how his brother was able to hit him around and not care that he was a gangster and may have been carrying a gun. The dialog of the movie was interesting with their fast talking and the iconical mannerism of the early 1900 gangsters. They were real tough guys and retaliation escaped no one. When Tom and Matt’s boss, Nails, died due to an accident with a horse, they bought the horse and then killed it. It was really gangster-esque. Tom in all just seemed like a crappy person. The way he treated women and his funny knuckle-two-tapped-nudge just made him seem like a guy with no regards to anyone. He was decent with his mother but that never really translated with any of the other women he was with. His change finally came when he was shot after retaliating for Matt’s unfortunate death. He apologized to his brother and just really seemed helpless. Fortunately he mad amends before he was finally killed by the other gang. It was interesting that the director Wellman made the decision to put a little moral at the end to teach society a lesson and gave them charge to handle these issues. Rarely do movies do that so obviously. The moral is just set in the movie itself and if there are any sort of writing before or after, it is more open and not so much of a demand. Overall it was an interesting film.

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