DVD Review: BREATHLESS 50th Anniversary Special Edition

At the ripe old age of 50, Jean-Luc Godard’s masterpiece is getting a bit of cosmetic surgery to freshen it...

Michael Edwards

Contributor


At the ripe old age of 50, Jean-Luc Godard’s masterpiece is getting a bit of cosmetic surgery to freshen it up for the home entertainment market. A digital remastering for blu-ray and special edition DVD release sees the classic riff on the film noir genre buffed up into the glorious quality it deserves.

For those of you not familiar with the film, allow me to gush for a little bit by way of introduction…

Jean-Paul Belmondo successfully establishes himself as one of the coolest actors ever as he channels Humphrey Bogart to great effect as Michel Poiccard, a small time crook on the run from the law. Once he’s shot a cop and stolen his car, he makes his way into Paris where he resumes a love affair with American girlfriend Particia Franchini (Jean Seberg) and Jean-Luc Godard begins his love affair with the city itself.

The film that launched the French New Wave, ‘Breathless’ remains an outstanding testament to the great ideals of fun filmmaking that infused this indescribably influential movement. The fast-paced story, driven by guns, girls and witty dialogue represented everything Godard and his fellow Cahiers critics wanted from a film, and everything that French cinema for the past few decades had evaded.

The sexually liberated leading lady was as revolutionary on the big screen as the play on narrative structure, which incorporated jump cuts and sudden shifts in story to disarmingly great effect. Add to these fantastically effective techniques an eye for the sensual and a genuine love for the cityscape in which it is set and you have a film that is nothing less than a feast for the senses.

QUALITY

The scrub-up has served the film well, with the special edition DVD looking closer to its celluloid glory: though being aware of any pixels in a film as great-looking as this is a real negative.

Better still is the blu-ray, where the the crispness of the image makes the film seem sharper and edgier than ever before. It loses some of the dreamy feel that it once had on film, which is a real shame, but it somehow hammers home how fresh this film seems even today.

EXTRAS

Lots of lengthy features come on this release they are:

An Introduction by Colin McCabe (5 mins or so) that is [redictably shot in black and white and offers as much hyperbole as insight (much as my review did I suppose) and is therefore a pretty good appetiser for the main event.

‘Room 12, Hotel de Suede’ (1hr 19mins), a feature-length made-for-TV documentary looking back at the making of the feature, and packed with great little interviews, including one with the now late, great Claude Chabrol.

‘Jean Luc according to Jean Luc’ (9mins), a little feature about the man himself, a trailer and a photo gallery.

These have actually all appeared on various releases before, but there is a newbie this time around: ‘Godard, Made in the USA’ (48mins). This is a great doc, made just last year, looking at the impact Godard gas gad in the USA.

There’s also a booklet with an essay, which does similar things to the two big docs, but in words…

Breathless is out now on blu-ray and special edition DVD release sees the classic riff