Monday, December 8, 2008

A BOUT DE SOUFFLE (Jean-Luc Godard, 1960, France) Michel Poiccard lives in the quicksilver moment with no thought to the future, his reflection a dark imitation of his nitrous fantasies, his last sputtered breath the cold apathy of denial and judgment. He is small time crook who steals American cars; this adrenaline rush satiates him with the angry growl of an eight cylinder Ford. Michel exists in a narcissistic self-imposed exile from society, loving himself while perfecting his signature gesture; a gentle tracery of his pouting lips and dangling cigarette. He shows little emotion, the murder of a police officer less important than his scorned and tepid affections. Jean-Luc Godard toys with Hollywood narrative conventions: he includes rash jump cuts while retaining a linear dialogue patterns, and he moves his camera into the streets and the tiny apartments…most of all he transports the audience from voyeur to accomplice. Godard’s close-up photography imparts a certain cold impassionate distance between the characters, filling the frame with their beautiful visage, separating them from each other but creating intimacy with the audience. In one fantastic sequence, Michel visits his friend to receive a letter and Godard films in one long three-minute (at least) tracking shot, moving the camera fluidly through the corridor of the bank and altering our point-of-view, as if we have fallen through the sprocket-hole and entered the world of our own Celluloid Hero. At times his editing is barely visible and others it’s meant to confuse and disorient our perceptions, such as the conversation between Patricia and her boss in the restaurant. The bombastic score imbues the film with an overblown Hollywood veneer, giving some insight into Michel’s personality and view of his world: it balances precariously on farce while retaining the dignity of the plot. Though Godard takes the film out of Michel’s world momentarily we basically experience his egocentrism, his puffed-up tiny life. But Michel is not surprised when his true love destroys him and he only has contempt for her actions: it is her fault. Patricia mimes her lover’s subtle gesture and turns her back on his breathless corpse: has she paid her last respects or has she been tainted by Michel’s nihilism? (A+)

1 comment:

smarthotoldlady said...

Do't think I;ve ever read a better analysis of this.

I have read that one reason for the use of cuts rather than fades in New Wave was the scarcity of fillm stock at the time. However, cuts seem to me more central to the storyline that fades or overlays would have.