My housemate just got Netflix and is using it partially to pursue her love of all things French. I'd actually never seen a French New Wave film before so I sat in on the viewing of Godard's Breathless. It was... an interesting time. Michel (Jean-Paul Belmondo) is a small-time criminal who suddenly finds himself a murderer on the lam in Paris. Instead of getting out of town, he tries to claim money that's owed him while romancing aspiring journalist Patricia (Jean Seberg), an American. The two spend lazy days together with frank discussions of sex and love; he constantly wants to sleep with her, and she's unsure if he's right for her as she struggles to advance her own career. Meanwhile, some cops are looking for him. I don't think much else happens, until the end.
I understand that this film was revolutionary for its time (wasn't it?), and I appreciate its importance in cinematic history, but without context of the time I'm not especially impressed or moved. The shooting style is really interesting, with a lot of quick jump cuts that lead to staccato conversations and jarring scene changes. Everything looks very cool and modern, as Godard sets his eye on the bustling city and its eclectic denizens- it's all big sunglasses, cute haircuts, shining streets, and sleek cars. The story oscillates between moving very quickly and slowing down drastically, sometimes focusing on Michel's fast-moving, ambiguous criminal dealings and sometimes allowing the two central figures to just talk for a while.
Unfortunately the two main characters that are so definitively centered in Breathless are not especially interesting. Michel is a jerk who tries to be a charmer but usually just berates, except for a few comedic moments. Patricia is captivating for her beauty and generally I liked her, but her wishy-washy, sometimes whiny demeanor didn't make her very sympathetic. Also why would she be involved with a jerk like Michel? I don't know. I didn't really care about their relationship, and while I liked some of their conversations it just didn't seem strong enough to be the focus of so much of the movie. This might be pegged for "Crime" and "Thriller" on imdb, but those elements are really more of a side note to the romantic narrative.
In the end I suppose I was underwhelmed by Breathless. Maybe I'm too young to "get it" but I'm pretty sure it's just not my kind of film. However, it's great for a first feature from Godard and I will definitely look into some of his other works as well as those of his New Wave peers.