Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Breathless (1960)

WHO: Jean-Luc Godard directed this.

WHAT: Godard's first feature film. Only one of the most famous and influential art/independent/foreign films ever made. A masterpiece that I find grows in stature with each viewing (maybe that's the very definition of masterpiece). David Hudson collected a large number of excellent articles about the film when it had its 50th anniversary in 2010.

WHERE/WHEN: Today only at the Castro Theatre at 7:30 PM.

WHY: Though (at least in 2013) we're not getting anything close in size to the giant Godard retrospective that New Yorkers were able to see last month, at least local cinephiles get to see at least five of Godard's best features in local cinemas this month, four of them on the giant-sized Castro screen. The Castro plays a Godard every Wednesday in November: Breathless tonight, Weekend on a 35mm double-bill with David Cronenberg's Crash on the 13th, Contempt as a newly-prepared DCP on the 20th, and Band of Outsiders alongside Vincent Gallo's Buffalo '66 on November 27th, both in 35mm.

The fifth Godard coming to Frisco Bay is perhaps my favorite of all his films: Vivre Sa Vie, his signature collaboration with his wife Anna Karina, screening as part of the Pacific Film Archive's Fassbinder's Favorites sidebar to its retrospective for that director. That'll be November 22nd, the same evening as the final screening in the PFA's current Agnès Varda series, Cléo From 5 to 7. It's an appropriate pairing because, although Varda last night said she was didn't feel particularly close to the Cahiers du Cinéma crowd (of which Godard must certainly be considered a member), she did recruit him and Karina to perform in the short film-within-film Les Fiancés du pont Mac Donald ou (Méfiez-vous des lunettes noires) appearing in Cléo.

Varda also noted last night that, although she was alone among female filmmakers to gain notice during the 1960s heyday of the French New Wave, she's become heartened that there are so many French women directing, shooting, and taking other once-male-dominated roles in filmmaking nowadays. Of the nine contemporary French films screening in the San Francisco Film Society's French Cinema Now series opening at the Clay tomorrow and running all weekend, female directors outnumber males five to four (only by counting French-Canadian director of Vic & Flo Saw A Bear Denis Côté does the ratio even up to five-five), and the series includes five films shot or co-shot by women cinematographers, including two by Claire Mathon, two by Jeanne Lapoirie, and of course Bastards, directed by Claire Denis and shot by superstar DP Agnès Godard (no relation to Jean-Luc). For a full preview of the French Cinema Now series I direct you to the excellent article by local Francophile and cinephile Michael Hawley.

HOW: Breathless screens in 35mm, on a double-bill with the local DCP premiere of one of Godard's favorite films, Otto Preminger's Bonjour Tristesse. This was the film that inspired Godard to cast Jean Seberg.

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