Thursday, March 01, 2007

Breath is Life

This is the third essay. It is on Gudard's Breathless (French, 1959, I think). Good movie.

In Gudard’s film, Breathless, the characters mimic famous Hollywood stars, losing their identity and who they are. Michel, despite all he tries, is not Humphrey Bogart. Humphrey Bogart is only cool in movies. Once Michel tries to become the living characters that Humphrey Bogart plays, he cheapens his existence. He gets bored, hates it and wants to run away. Patricia, even though she does not imitate anyone, is also alike Michel in that way. She, too, is acting. From the beginning, she was not quite so Hollywood, but then as she and Michel are near each other, it grows on her. By the end of the film, she and Michel are akin.

Because Michel tries so hard to do what he wants, when he wants and not care about what happens because of what he does, he condemns himself. Whether to a miserable existence, jail or death, his fate is to end up unhappy. From the start of the film, the audience watches him hijack a car, kill a policeman and steal money. In life, killing a policeman would hardly be exciting or interesting. In Hollywood, it would be dramatic and exhilarating. In Breathless, it is quick, confusing and boring. Michel takes out the gun, shoots and runs. Despite how much Michel tries to live as though in the movies, he lives in the real world. If he shoots a man, the man gets shot. No dramatic gunfights or witty quips or intense pauses.

In life, people take a lot of time to move from one place to another. This is the same for Michel. He may act like Bogart, but life is life and he’s forced to take the time to walk, drive and live. Whenever the intense, dramatic music, usually reserved for the intense dramatic scenes, plays, Michel is walking or driving.

Patricia is not reckless, but she is not innocent. She plays the part of the femme fatale. Not a particularly sly and deviously cunning one, but for Michel’s case, she is one. She plays the part of the American student who wants to be a writer. She cannot run off, or she looses her money and is forced back home. Michel is given a hard decision: Patricia or Italy. Michel dearly wants to leave Paris, but if he does, he loses Patricia.

Patricia becomes affected by Michel’s reckless behaviour. She allows herself to be absorbed into Michel’s life. It is a subtle occurrence, but she does begin to pick up Michel’s habits, such as his three exaggerated emotions motion. She does not want to pick Michel. She does not want to love Michel. That is why she informs on him, even though she does not like informers. Because this is life and in life, people do things that are unexplainable, she does inform. She, like Michel, has two choices: Michel or not. She did not pick him, and that meant she needed to inform on him.
Michel’s death scene is not Hollywood. Even in death, Michel cannot achieve that blissful status he wanted so badly. His life was filled with Bogart’s lip move and thoughtless behaviour. He is not what he used to be. He is not quite so human anymore. He is sub-human because he poses Bogart. When he dies, he has no harsh and tender moments with Patricia. He gets shot, he runs and he dies. Patricia stands over him with her indescribable expression. The policeman even repeats his dying words incorrectly. His last words and they are wrong.

Patricia then repeats his Bogart move.

Imitation is cheap. Michel and Patricia are two people cheapened by Hollywood hype. Michel began to hate his life, thoughtless behaviour was getting him nowhere and tried to run. When he tried to run, his past problems caught up to him and killed him. Hollywood and Bogart cheapened his existence to the point where he died.

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