Ah, French cinema. Having just watched Jean-Luc Godard's (I note the uncanny resemblance in the name to a certain fictional hero we have been talking about) film Breathless (Á bout de souffle if you prefer the French title), I now understand the "style over substance" aesthetic that current filmmakers such as Tarantino and others are accused of.
Breathless is the kind of film that I would love to make. The plot isn't really important, but rather the mechanism that sets the film in motion. It can be summed up as a young French car thief kills a policeman and goes to his American girlfriend to hide. They spend the night and day talking, making love, stealing cars and so on. Nothing drastically amazing here.
But the real revelation is Godard's techniques and aesthetic. Shot with handheld cameras in natural lighting the film reveals how Godard's eye for a good shot and good location, as well as inventive editing help to create a thing of beauty. The film looks great. The script is filled with funny conversations, clever innuendos and weird characters. One can see how important this film would have been in influence on American filmmakers in the 70s and even the new-new wave of Indie filmmakers in the ninties, like Soderbergh and Tarantino.
Also, the soundtrack is great, a kind of blend of European 60s lounge music and jazz, it draws the film along, making it feel light and bouncy, despite some of the heavier elements. This film reminds me of what can be great about European cinema.
Guess my new interest will be French New Wave films. Gotta get me some more Godard
Godard's Masculine/Feminine, which has a very similar aesthetic is being re-released in theatres this year. You can check out the trailer here.
Note: Earlier I had said that Masculine/Feminine is a new film. I was wrong. It was released originally in 1966. However, Godard is still making films. He had a release in 2003 called Notre musique and has another film in the works for 2005 called Paris, je t'aime.