Analysis #2

I’ve chosen to do my second analysis assignment on the materiality of film. The example I’m using is a clip from the French New-Wave era movie Breathless, one of my personal favorite  films that we’ve viewed in class. The specific clip I’ve chosen uses jump cuts quite frequently.

Breathless Scene

The scene starts out with Michel and Patricia driving around. The camera is focused on Patricia for this whole part of the scene. This whole section is jump cut after jump cut. This form of editing makes it seem as if there is a significant time difference between the scenes, but in reality is it a steady continuation, only the camera angle has shifted. You can tell because the dialogue stays consistent without missing a beat. During this scene, Michel is listing the things he adores about Patricia, but he ends by calling her a coward. While he lists his favorite things about Patricia, she is just observing her surroundings, and ignoring Michel’s comments. I believe this is significant because during all these jump cuts, Patricia’s lack of interest in Michel’s words, and her sudden interest in her surroundings stays constant. The camera doesn’t leave its view of Patricia until Michel pulls up to the place where he is dropping her off to meet her boss for a meeting, and even then it only focuses on Michel for a moment. Apparently Patricia’s ignoring Michel in the car ride offended him because as she leaves his car to meet her boss, he tells her she’s a louse and he never wants to see her again. (He, of course, goes on to see her for the rest of the movie). As soon as Patricia is in the building, the camera is back to focusing directly on her. While she rides up the escalator, the camera follows her from overhead. This makes it seem like more of  a documentary, or just a rather personal, homemade movie. I really like this technique. During Patricia’s conversation with her boss, the camera is shaky, and it goes back to jump cuts, this time between Patricia and her boss, while he tells a story. It seems like there’s a time difference between each shot once again, but it is continuous shots. The jump cuts and shaky camera here give it a personal feel, and make it feel like an amateur movie or a home movie or documentary. I believe the filmmaker used the jump cuts and over head view and shaky camera to show us the film from the eye of a close-by bystander to all that is going on. At certain points it feels like the person in focus is being stalked, with the way the camera angles are used. When Patricia is leaving the restaurant with her boss, the camera follows her from the back, and makes it seem like shes being spied on, so at first I thought we were seeing it from Michel’s point of view, but then the camera cuts to Michel who is clearly annoyed, then back to Patricia and her boss walking hurriedly to her boss’ car, then back to Michel, buying a newspaper, who then turns around and sees Patricia and her boss kissing. It isn’t until this part of the scene that the background music starts. At first it as a normal speed, but while they are kissing the music speeds up, as if it were signifying something scandalous (it is !) and the camera does another jump cut, and shows them kissing from different angles. Once again, this type of filmmaking makes it look as if the people in focus are being stalked. I’m not sure if that was what the filmmaker going for, but thats the concept I get from my viewing.

After the camera cuts back and forth between Patricia and Michel, it shows Patricia and her boss driving away in her boss’ car, first at an eye-level view showing the streets, then cutting to an overhead view once again. The screen fades to black and the music dies out, then after a couple of seconds, the music starts back up again at the same pace it originally began with, and the camera view is now a mid-level view, showing us the Eiffel Tower, from the view of what seems to be a moving car. This view gives the film that personal feeling again. The Eiffel Tower gets lost behind some trees, and then we are back to viewing Patricia, who is hopping off a trolley and skipping about. The scenes shown here cut from Patricia running off the trolley, to her skipping across a street, to her looking at herself in a mirror in a store window, holding her stomach as if she was pregnant, then sucking her stomach in to make herself look thinner. Again we have jump cuts, showing Patricia viewing herself in the mirror at different angles. Once again, we have that outsider’s close-up point of view.

Throughout this whole scene, the filmmaker used techniques that were very new to movies in France. This film was made by Jean-Luc Godard, a major influence and revolutionary during the 1960’s New Wave era. The way the movie sometimes appear to be filmed with a handheld camera, as if it were a home movie or documentary is probably because New Wave era films were low-budget and the lack of funding for the films was definitely reflected in the films. In addition, Jean-Luc Goddard stated himself in an interview in the acclaimed French journal Cahiers Du Cinema, 

“The nouvelle vague, in fact, may be defined in part
by this new relationship between fiction and reality,
as well as through nostalgic regret for a cinema
which no longer exist"

I can definitely see the relationship between fiction and reality in this film. The movie of course, is a fictional story, but the way it is shot certainly makes it seem like a real life account, or a documentary at times. This New Wave type of filmmaking was experimental, and political in the sense that it focused on interpretation of the film-making style rather than the plot of the film. Throughout the whole film, not just the clip, is the audience focused on the techniques used to create the film, more than the plot, thus being  “less prone to manipulation”. The journal Cahiers Du Cinema, which Godard wrote for, suggested that directors were not just crew members, but artists with their own personal vision and style. This is definitely a good description for Godard. This particular scene definitely had a sense of Godard’s specific style of film-making and personal vision. It showed all of the unconventional different camera views and angles he used to make a statement against conventional film-making in his time. This film was made during the 1960s, during the Vietnam War, and the revolutionary filmmakers of the time such as Godard felt that cinema could be used as “a tool for the revolution”, which brings the political aspect into play, the political aspect being that the film was less a “gangster film” than a “metacommentary on [gangster films]”, the film didn’t stick to the usual guidelines for films being made at the time, breaking tradition, and the audience needed to see through his point of view to understand where he was coming from. I believe Godard did a fine job of capturing the audience’s attention with his techniques such as jump cuts, overhead views, handheld camera capturing, and he certainly made the audience focus more on the filmic process rather than the plot. This film definitely broke tradition in its recording style. I found it to be brilliant, as well as Godard’s style in particular.

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2 Comments so far

  1.    Amy Herzog on December 20th, 2011

    Really thoughtful response– thanks!

  2.    Haga information on March 23rd, 2013

    Howdy! This post couldn’t be written much better! Looking at this article reminds me of my previous roommate! He constantly kept talking about this. I will forward this information to him. Pretty sure he’s going to have a very good read. Thanks for sharing!

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