Thursday, March 30, 2017

Tarantino 101: BREATHLESS

This is a new segment I'm going to try out, the influences of Quentin Tarantino. When it comes to someone with film knowledge like Quentin has, the influences must be endless. I'm willing to bet they are. But after years of watching and reading, I've found a handful of movies that shaped the filmmaker we know today.

One big influence to Tarantino's early work is the 1983 film BREATHLESS. Directed by Jim McBride, the film is a remake of the beloved French New Wave film A BOUT DE SOUFFLE from 1960 directed by Jean-Luc Godard. One day I may blog about the 1960 classic, but today it's all about the remake.

First off, how dare there be a remake of the French New Wave classic! Automatic dismissal! In 1983 when the remake was released that was what most critics thought. A reaction still popular today among remakes.

From the get go it's kinda easy to see why Tarantino might like BREATHLESS. It's an American remake of a movie that more or less is a love letter to Hollywood crime films from the 30's and 40's. Both films are aware of their source material, but not in a meta way. It's similar to how PULP FICTION was a love letter to movies and of course pulp fiction.

Car thief Jesse (Richard Gere) has to get out of town quick after shooting a policeman on accident. But before he leaves he has to convince his new "girlfriend" Monica to go with him. The longer he waits the closer the law is to catch him.

I have never been a big Richard Gere fan, but he's is amazing in Breathless! The over the top performance he gives playing Jesse grew on me. He over does it, but there comes a moment where it all makes since. I love rock n' roll, so Jesse being a fan of Jerry Lee Lewis I dug quite a bit! There is a hilarious moment when Jesse steals a Porsche, he tosses out the owners music and plays his personal cassette tape of The Killer himself, Jerry Lee Lewis!

Another obsession Jesse has is the comic book character The Silver Surfer. If he can, Jesse keeps a issue rolled up in his pants or coat pocket. The creed of Norrin Radd starts to become allegorical to Jesse's plight.

If you're a fan of RESERVOIR DOGS and have seen it a few times you may have noticed a poster of The Silver Surfer. This easter egg was explained in a interview with Tarantino on the DVD. He went on to further discuss how the look of the film became an influence.

Having seen BREATHLESS several times now (thanks to Shout! Factory releasing it on Blu-Ray), I can really notice hints of PULP FICTION. For starters they both feature that bad ass guitar song from Link Wray called Rumble. If you're unsure what song I'm talking about it's most notable in my opinion when Vincent and Mia are having their 'uncomfortable silence' moment in Jack Rabbit Slims.

Another thing I noticed is Jesse's girlfriend Monica is French. In PULP FICTION Butch's girlfriend (or wife?) is also French. Coincidence, I think not! The way both couples fight and make up is similar to a degree.

So I know some of you are probably thinking "Cool, it's an influence to PULP FICTION but is the movie itself any good?". The answer is yes and no. Yes, in that the film is still entertaining for what it is. But no, of course BREATHLESS is not as good as PULP FICTION.

I loved seeing all the influences to Tarantino's early work, but I found things I liked on my own about BREATHLESS. Any chance the movie gets it's colors pop, sticking with the theme that Jesse is a fan of a comic book hero. Director Jim McBride is obviously a fan of rock music because his film plays fast and loose, just like rock n' roll!

In conclusion, I'd say if you're a Quentin Tarantino fan and have never heard of BREATHLESS, then it might be worth your time to check it out!

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