#387- Breathless

Quick recap: After randomly killing a police office, Michel tries to convince a recent hook up to escape to Italy with him.

Se

I am equally in love with both Jean Seberg and Jean-Paul Belmondo

Fun (?) fact: There’s a rumor that the movie was scriptless but that’s not entirely true. Godard wanted a spontaneous feel so he fed lines to the actors instead of having them memorize their own parts.

Thoughts and observations:

I don’t know if I’ve gotten better at understanding Godard’s films or it’s because I’ve had no social contact for the last three weeks because of quarantine, but I REALLY enjoyed this movie. I suspect the latter. What excited me so much about Breathless wasn’t the random philosophical discussions but instead seeing all the people! As 1930s films need a spinning newspaper, French movies always need a coffee shop scene and this one had me at the edge of my seat. No one had to keep 6 feet apart and they could linger at their table for as long as they wanted.

Jean Seberg, as Patricia, had my attention from the very beginning when she was walking down the street selling newspapers. Seeing as how I’m now in sweatpants 90% of the time, I loved living vicariously through her as changed into outfit after outfit for no apparent reason. I’d forgotten about dressing up and going out somewhere. And more than that, I loved how complicated her love for Michel was. When they first met up she was confused, saying that they only hooked up a few times so didn’t understand why he wanted her to flee to Rome with him so badly. But then in the next scene she insinuates that she is pregnant with his child. The way she looked at him sometimes was pure love but by the end of the film she had turned him into police. I wanted the best for her the entire time but I didn’t know what the ‘best’ was.

And as for Michel, I had no idea how to feel about him at all. On one hand he killed a cop and stole several cars. But on the other hand, look at him:

I rest my case

He was the very definition of toxic and there would be no way he would actually make it out of the country but I still would’ve taken my chances.

Watchability score: 4/5. I’m as surprised as you!

Up next: M

#386- Neco z Alenky (Alice)

Quick recap: The classic story of Alice in Wonderland, if told by David Lynch and David Cronenberg. Probably not for children.

If this creeps you out, just wait!

Fun (?) fact: Unlike traditional stop motion films, Alice did not use any miniature sets for its effects.

Imagine a full size this!

Thoughts and observations:

I had a nightmare after watching this movie and it’s really no wonder I’m not more traumatized considering:

  • The white rabbit is full of sawdust and enjoys eating what leaks out of him
  • The movie takes place in a run down house where even the leaves piled up inside are somehow menacing
  • Whatever this is:

  • Alice turning into a life-size porcelain doll which she has to escape from

I could easily come up with 10 more examples but I think you get the point. This version of Alice in Wonderland is no fairytale. Director Jan Svankmajer envisioned something along the lines of an ‘amoral dream’ and he certainly was successful. I tend to have very vivid dreams and watching Alice’s journey trigged something familiar inside of me. I don’t know what that says about my brain but I can completely relate to this version. I especially loved the end when Alice woke up and saw all the parts of her dream surrounding her: the playing cards, the tarts and the stones. And then in the final scene she looks over and sees that the taxidermied white rabbit did actually bust out of his cage. She grabs a pair of scissors and says ‘off with his head’. I LOVE that the Alice in this movie is not a sweet girl but instead mischievous and sometimes just outright violent. I found myself both rooting for her and also enjoying when she got her comeuppance.

Watchability score: 4/5, if you can handle it

Up next: Chimes at Midnight

 

#385- Sabotage

Quick recap: A movie theater owner somehow gets involved with a terrorist group who want to SABOTAGE London. His wife and her little brother get dragged into the mess as well, which is usually how these things go.

The opening scene is a ‘Webster’s dictionary defines…’ trope

Fun (?) fact: Sabotage is not to be confused with the title ‘The Secret Agent’, the book the film is based off of. And also not to be confused with The Secret Agent, also directed by Alfred Hitchcock the same year but about something completely different.

Not many dames in this movie and only one spinning newspaper

Thoughts and observations:

This feels like my millionth Hitchcock film and although there were several director tropes I recognized, Sabotage still feels novel. I think what sold me is that the audience knows who the bad guys are from the very beginning so the tension comes from finding out when they will get their comeuppance. I really enjoyed the characters although I never really understood the relationship between Mrs. and Mr. Karl Verloc. They were married, obviously, but the two didn’t seem to match at all. Plus, there’s the dirty business of not knowing that her husband was a wannabe terrorist.

The best part of Sabotage is how dark it goes for a movie made in the 1930s. SPOILERS AHEAD. YOUVE BEEN WARNED.

I connected with Stevie, the little brother, early on in the film and appreciated how he could bring light into some really dark scenes. When Verloc told him to drop off the film canisters (along with the bomb) at Piccadilly Circus, I wasn’t worried because Hitchcock is known for building suspense. I actually just assumed that the bomb would be a dud so I audibly gasped when it went off and blew the bus up (as well as Stevie). Hitchcock said he regretting killing a character the audience had learned to sympathize with and promised to never to do it again. Until Psycho, that is.  It’s a dirty trick but really effective.

The end of the movie was also a whirlwind that I’ll keep from spoiling except to say that although there is a resolution, people were still killed and harm was done. I appreciate when the main characters don’t live happily ever after but are instead left to pick up the pieces.

Watchability score: 4/5

Up next: Alice

 

#381- L’Atalante

Quick recap: Juliette marries Jean, a ship captain. She learns that living on a ship isn’t as romantic as it sounds and actually really sucks most of the time. Except for the cats, of course.

Fun (?) fact: This was the last film Jean Vigo directed before his death at the age of 29. This was definitely NOT a fun fact but it’s all I have. Have some more cats!

Thoughts and observations:

Excluding the fact that the wedding party was all dressed in black and somberly waved her off, I can’t imagine Juliette had any idea what she signed up for when marrying Jean. Maybe she imagined an exciting adventure as her new husband steered the ship to faraway ritzy places. Maybe she imagined settling into her role as caretaker for the shipmates and earning their respect in return. At the very least, she must’ve enjoyed the thought of being on the river, blue sky as far as the eye could see.

Instead, she got:

  • A very dirty ship with hardly enough room for everyone
  • Days full of fog and cold weather
  • cats. SO MANY CATS
  • Jules, who is best described by the picture below-

So, I’d say not an ideal beginning to any new marriage. I totally understand how frustrating it must’ve been for Juliette to be so close to Paris and not be able to experience it.Considering all the new situations she was thrust into, it’s a wonder she didn’t try to escape sooner. I really love how she tried to adapt to all these things and it was Jean who ultimately pushed her away. Which I guess is why working with a spouse is a bad idea, but that’s a rant for another day.

Jean Vigo may have been young, but he really had a strong understanding of couples and their needs in any relationship. It says something that I was able to identify with both characters, even when they were being ridiculous and stupid. Maybe I didn’t abandon my spouse in a foreign town without any money or way to contact me, but I know what that’s like to be angry at the person you love the most. The reunion at the end of the film, although a result of ridiculous coincidences, was very sweet and gave me hope for these characters continuing relationship.

Now, onto the most important part of the film: THE CATS. There were SO many cats of all kinds- old ones, kittens, hyper ones and honestly I could’ve used more of them. They are all taken care of by Jules, which I thought was a wonderful way to show his humanity even though he looked and acted so rough. My favorite scenes were when someone would be sitting somewhere and a cat would just fly into the scene because you know that had to be someone’s job. I don’t think I’d want to be a cat wrangler in another life but I would’ve loved to watch the mayhem.

Final review: 4/5

Up next: Gaav