Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Being Left "Breathless" by Pan's Labyrinth

It feels almost providential that last night was the night I chose to watch Breathless for the first time because when I got online today I happened upon this article at Moviezzz, where its Criterion release is all but announced, as well as finding this 6-month old post on Culture Space via the "external favorite" links on the blog Critical Culture. In both cases, be it from the cartoon "clue" or the photograph of the lovely Jean Seberg, I wouldn't have otherwise known what film served as the subject of these posts.

What finally prompted me to do Breathless, despite the fact that I felt any self-respecting cinephile has to have seen it, was that I recently watched a documentary entitled The Cutting Edge: The Magic of Movie Editing (which may perhaps prove the subject of an upcoming post) wherein the film's innovative quick-cutting style was prominently featured. I also viewed Truffaut's Day For Night (which I positively adored) not too long ago and although I am embarassed to admit that I had yet to see a single Godard film (aside from the opening shot of Contempt) the fact that this story was at least partially written by Truffaut automatically elevated it in my eyes.

At any rate, I quite liked it. I thought the two leads were great and I thoroughly enjoyed the film's style. I'm not sure I "get" it yet. I think I need to see it at least a couple more times to unwrap its intricacies, but that is a prospect which I am not at all opposed to. I don't really know too much about Godard or his films (aside from his notorious ad hominem attacks on Spielberg, which don't exactly endear him in my eyes) but I'm willing to learn.

On a completely unrelated note, I finally got to watch Pan's Labyrinth on Sunday (it comes out on DVD today) and was completely captivated by it. I wanted to see it in the theatre but for a variety of reasons didn't get the chance. Now, of course, I can't believe I waited so long because it was an excellent film; a beautiful, disturbing fantasy (a superb "fairy tale for adults" as people like to call it). I won't say too much about it because so much has already been said, but it did have the effect, among other things, of making me want to watch all of Guillermo Del Toro's films. I'd already seen Mimic, Blade II and Hellboy (all of which I thought were great) but now I feel like I need to check out Cronos and Devil's Backbone as well. So many movies, so little time.


Gareth said...

Cronos is a fabulous film, a completely original and often very moving take on the vampire mythology: I saw in in the theatre when it came out, and it blew me away.

Moviezzz said...

If you want to watch more Godard films, you should probably see his earlier ones (pre 1969). I don't think any director changed direction as much as he did. His later ones are sometimes virtually unwatchable, yet those early ones, especially MASCULIN/FEMININ and VIVRE SA VIE, are some of the greatest of all time.

Ted Pigeon said...

I have been a Guillermo Del Toro enthusiast since I saw Blade II, an action-horror film that is one of the finest in recent years. Hellboy was equally evocative, but lacked the unleahsing of creative energy that an R-rated version may have allowed. I have since seen all of his films, and I'm beginning to think that Del Toro is like a modern day Hitchcock, not in his specific themes, but in how all of his movies are so precisely made yet so abstract at the same time: color pallettes, shot designs, lighting, it's all so evocative and deliberate, but as Pan's Labyrinth shows are full of nuance. Del Toro can make great films of varying budgets, themes, and styles, yet there are elements within all of his films that unify them thematically, much like Hitch. He is undoubtedly one of my favorite filmmakers.

Damian said...


As a fan of vampire lore, that description definitely piques my interest. The movie looks great. I'll have to check it out. Thanks! :)


It's interesting to me that there are just as many voices hailing Godard as a significant cinematic genius as there are criticising him for being one of the most overrated directors ever. Even those who really love him don't seem to care for his later stuff and most of the films that I hear referred to as his greatest wrks (Weekend, Contempt and A Woman is a Woman) all come from the earlier part of his career. So, I will definitely check him out, but I suspect I will try the pre-1969 movies first. Then, perhaps I'll watch a more recent one just for comparison.


It's interesting that you bring up the Hitchcock connection because as I was watching clips from Guillermo's other films (and listening to him describe his "process" to Charlie Rose on one of the DVD's extra features) I thought the exact same thing. I believe there is very much a similarity between Hitchcock in Gillermo, but not in the blatant (almost plagiaristic) manner of Brian DePalma. He doesn't resemble Hitch in subject matter (Hitch would never touch a story with a pure fantasy/supernatural element to it) or even necessarily in the style, but more in the way he approaches his own material/themes and brings them the screen. Guillermo, like Hitch, is certainly a visual stylist, but he has his own distinct voice... and he is, also like Hitch, most definitely an autuer.

cineboy said...

Breathless is one of my favorite films. When I first saw it I was deeply affected as a young, wannabe, filmmaker. However, the film is a litle hard to understand, and a lot of what made it seem so fresh in it day was based on both the culture of the day (what was imprtant to people) and the viewer understanding the inside jokes. Something that really helped me was the book Breathless (1987) by Dudley Andrew.

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