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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Breathless (1983) (Blu-ray)
Breathless (1983) (Blu-ray)
Shout Factory // R // April 7, 2015 // Region A
List Price: $19.93 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by William Harrison | posted April 13, 2015 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Recommended
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P R I N T
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THE FILM:

Click an image to view Blu-ray screenshot with 1080p resolution.

This 1983 experiment in remaking Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless is certainly more immediately accessible than the French version, with its interminable takes and jarring jump cuts. That movie is a film-studies classic, of course, but Jim McBride's update is stylish, energetic and - dare I say - more entertaining. A young Richard Gere plays drifter Jesse Lujack, who chases after undergraduate student Monica Poiccard (Valerie Kaprisky) on a sweaty, neon-soaked landscape of rock music and false promises. There are more cross-references to Godard's film than necessary, but things move at a decent clip. Just don't expect to remember much about Breathless after the credits roll.

A past is not something the film gives its restless male star. Lujack has little more than a rap sheet to tie him to this world, and scrapes by stealing and conning. He identifies with Marvel's misunderstood Silver Surfer, a disillusioned superhero who hurts others before reacquiring his humanity. Poiccard is a UCLA architecture student with pedigree, and she is initially shocked when her Las Vegas hook-up follows her back to Los Angeles. The audience knows this romance is doomed, as these characters push away from one another even as they rekindle their brief affair. Unlike the French version, this American Breathless shows more than it tells. Gone are the long takes, but the film's preoccupation with its cat-and-mouse romance can be grating.

It was an interesting decision to use untrained Kaprisky as the female lead. The French-born actress is gorgeous and somewhat aloof, and I think her innocence and inexperience works here. She gets sucked into Gere's cocky, preening whirlwind of crime and wanderlust, only to get spit out the other side a wanted woman. Gere gives an interesting performance here that borders on overacting, which seems intentional and is frequently hilarious. The script includes a bunch of pop culture references that film fans should enjoy, and Breathless quickly turns into the Richard Gere Variety Show.

I am not sure why McBride chose to remake a French New Wave classic, but he is not the first director to claim Godard as inspiration. The characters are as superficial as the setting, and Lujack, in particular, is hard to empathize with. Still, not every movie has to have a broader message, and I was not bored during this film's 97 minutes. Quentin Tarantino apparently likes this Breathless a lot, and most of its stylish excess works. Some may label updating Godard's film sacrilege, but I am not one for stuffy film classism. Just enjoy the show, folks.

THE BLU-RAY:

PICTURE:

Shout! Factory presents Breathless with a mostly good 1.85:1/1080p/AVC-encoded transfer. This is a bright, bold film and the colors are nicely saturated despite the film's age. Fine-object detail is apparent, though softness creeps into a few shots. The print is reasonably clean and the grain structure is natural. Black crush pops up occasionally, and I noticed minor banding.

SOUND:

The 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio mono mix is reasonably immersive, and I noticed no distortion or clipping. Effects and the rock score are nicely integrated. English subtitles are available.

EXTRAS:

Just the trailer (2:26/HD).

FINAL THOUGHTS:

This update of Jean-Luc Godard's famous French New Wave film is no revered classic, but there is a certain amount of fun to be had watching a young Richard Gere chew scenery as a rootless thief in love with Valerie Kaprisky's architecture student. Superficial but entertaining, Breathless on Blu-ray is Recommended.


Additional screenshots:

William lives in Burlington, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.

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