Analysis #2: Formal Analysis

Cinema is very interesting because there are so many things that can be accomplished with it.  Most films created are usually to tell a story.  But some films aren’t created for this reason.  Instead, they are created to show the audience the process of filmmaking.  Filmmakers want the audience to focus more on the process it took to create the film, rather than on the plot of the film.  Breathless, a film that was created in 1960, has good examples of displaying “materiality” of film.  Jean-Luc Godard produced something that was different and not what the audience was used to seeing.  There was a reason for this change in cinema.

Breathless used techniques that the audience wasn’t used to seeing.  Two main techniques used were jump-cuts and direct address.  Jump-cuts occur when a cut is made and it doesn’t match with what is currently being shot.  A continuous shot is interrupted and the shot seems out of place.  In a direct address, the actors break character and directly address the camera to speak to the audience.  Using these techniques makes the audience view the film in a different way.  Instead of paying attention at the plot, the audience would realize the techniques used because they catch the attention.  Since these techniques are different from the usual techniques that the audience is used to seeing (such as long takes and no improvisation), the audience realizes the process.  They notice the difference.  The narrative becomes less important and the filmmaking process is emphasized more.  Breathless displays this in many scenes.

Breathless begins using these techniques right away.  In the second scene, Michel is seen driving off in the car that he had just stolen.  While he makes an assertion that the cars behind him won’t pass him, jump-cuts occur to show how he passes all the cars.  While the audience is busy trying to figure out Michel’s situation, the jump-cuts make them react and realize the actual main focus.  The audience notices that something isn’t normal.  It shows them that the narrative film they were used to seeing doesn’t always have to be done that way.

In this same scene, direct address is used as well.  Michel first lets the audience know that he likes France.  After saying this statement, he looks directly at the camera and says, “If you don’t like the shore, if you don’t like the mountains, if you don’t like the city, then get stuffed.”  Once again, the audience isn’t used to seeing techniques like this, especially seeing the actors break character.  They are being exposed to seeing something different in cinema, rather than the same techniques used all the time.

Filmmakers wanted the spectators to see the process of filmmaking and to see how films didn’t have to follow a certain pattern or specific rules.  They didn’t have to be manipulated and they wanted to show to the audience that films could be created in whichever way the person wanted.  There were no specific guidelines to follow.  During the time that Breathless was created, a film movement began which originated in France.  The French wanted change and cinema was used to symbolize that they wanted this change.  That is why different techniques were used and that is why the audience was exposed to something that they hadn’t seen before.  It sparked change.

The goal of filmmakers during this time period was to initiate change.  I think that it was achieved because filmmakers during this time period began to produce something different.  Before this year, films still followed the usual narrative.  But during this year, something changed.  Films were shot with such a low budget and the traditional narrative film was broken.  There was now improvisation in films, direct address and jump-cuts.  To me it seems like the goal was achieved through the new techniques that were developed.  It symbolized exactly what filmmakers wanted it to symbolize: change.

Breathless definitely initiated something new during the 1960’s.  Jean-Luc’s techniques influenced other directors to make change in their production as well and thus, impacting cinema overall.  The techniques made the audience aware that just because they were used to seeing films use the same techniques over and over, every film had to be like that.  They made them aware of other types of films that could be produced and that it was perfectly fine if it seemed unusual.  The plot isn’t always what is essential in a film, the filmmaking process is.

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3 Comments

  1. Amy Herzog Said,

    December 14, 2011 @ 4:29 am

    Thanks for all your hard work, and all your insightful posts this semester, Jessica!

  2. jgreenfield100 Said,

    December 16, 2011 @ 1:10 am

    I think you did a very good job analyzing this movie. I like how you took two of the biggest characteristics of the French New Wave and discussed them in your essay. I especially enjoyed how you described what a jump cut is, and provided a good example of it in this movie. Also, I thought the example of direct address you gave was very detailed. By, giving that example it shows that you carefully watched this movie, because that shot happened quickly.

  3. yeongbinkim Said,

    December 16, 2011 @ 6:07 am

    wow nice work. i liked how u described the shots with lots of details, and i liked the cuts that jason mentioned… good work.

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