Blu-ray Review: Breathless [Fun City Editions] | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Tuesday, November 28th, 2023  


Studio: Fun City Editions

May 08, 2023 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Jesse Lujack (Richard Gere) is on the lam in Los Angeles after shooting a state trooper who pulled him over in a stolen car. This means trouble for Monica (Valerie Kaprisky), a French college student with whom Jesse spent a few wild nights in Las Vegas. Jesse’s madly in love with Monica, and convinced that Monica loves him—she just doesn’t know it yet. While doing his best to hide his criminal past, he’s come to try to reignite their affair and (hopefully) convince her to leave her studies behind and flee to Mexico with him.

It’s usually pointless to remake a classic—especially one as influential and highly-regarded as Godard’s—but thankfully Breathless (1983) hardly tries. It borrows the premise, but more heavily it borrows the prior film’s pervading sense of cool and updates it for the 1980s, and brings with it a more American sensibility: jazz is swapped for rockabilly, Paris street lamps for neon beer signs, Humphrey Bogart for Jerry Lee Lewis, and black-and-white for bold, brilliant colors. In their booklet essay in Fun City Edition’s new Blu-ray release, Margaret Barton-Fumo draws a comparison between film remakes and cover songs, which is really apt in this case: Breathless (1983) feels more like a reinterpretation or “cover” of Breathless (1960) than any sort of substitute or replacement.

This second Breathless diverges most in aspects that Godard himself was less concerned with, tightening the story while better characterizing its female lead. And compared to how Godard ignored all conventional wisdom of film-making while crafting his Breathless, the way the remake adheres faithfully to old-fashioned rules feels outright rebellious. McBride’s Breathless looks and moves like an old, Hollywood thriller—it feels much closer to the American noirs that Godard adored, down to an intentionally hokey driving sequence filmed against a screen. It pulls this off with an over-the-top style throughout, from Gere’s garish outfits and performance to several ostentatiously-lit interiors. It’s a joy to look at, and the soundtrack—which somehow finds room for both Jerry Lee Lewis and Brian Eno—is even better.

Fun City Editions’ Blu-ray is another excellent package, highlighted by a feature-length commentary by critic Glenn Kenny. Director Jim McBride provides an on-camera interview that’s admirably candid, as he goes into the continued difficulties he had find directing jobs after David Holzman’s Diary (1967) was a darling of festivals, and speaks openly about how he was basically the last person anyone wanted directing this script, which he co-wrote with L.M. Kit Carson. (There are also a couple brief but humorous stories about Godard, well. . . being Godard.) The disc also has a few deleted/extended scenes, including an earlier, less effective ending, with McBride providing context where some audio has gone missing.

Breathless (1983) shouldn’t have to be held up against the classic Breathless (1960), but we’d argue that it becomes an even more interesting film when the two are laid side-by-side. Fun City’s Blu-ray is worth a pick-up, as much for the supplements that examine its journey to the screen as the movie itself.



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