I can only imagine what it would have been like to see this in theatres in Canada or the US when it finally made it over. This is an insane film, a real time experience a newly successful trying to come to terms with her biopsy, with a myriad of film techniques with no regard for convention.
There’s basically no American movie from the era that could have prepared audiences for this film. There may have been some European movies like this – I can’t quite remember where we are in the New Wave in 1962 – but there certainly wasn’t anything American remotely like this.
First, there’s the real time – or the approximate real time. She freaks out about her biopsy and we travel with her around Paris until she finds her doctor.
The film uses all sorts of out there techniques through its brief run:
- the opening is in colour but the rest of film is black and white
- like any good New Wave film there are jump cuts galore
- there are static shots from high above and shaky hand-helds all over Paris
- the camera even speeds up at one point.
The complete disregard for filmmaking convention in this movie is just something to behold. Sure, Breathless had broken some rules but this feels like something else altogether. (Though I should point out that I haven’t seen Breathless in forever.)
The film is also pretty existentialist but I honestly spent far more time gawking at the crazy path-breaking film techniques than I did thinking about the the obsession with what it all means. Though I do like how the film sort of dances around Algeria at first and takes a while to get to explicitly talking about about it. It’s not exactly subtle when it gets there, but it’s subtle before it gets there, which I appreciate.
But it’s a pretty impressive break with convention whether or not you care about that content. It’s quite something.