Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Breathless, Inception, and Derren Brown

During the lecture on Wednesday 26th, we've seen a film dubbed the most important New Wave film, Breathless (À bout de souffle) by Jean-Luc Gordard. It was made in 1960 and frankly I hardly know anything about the period, therefore the whole viewing experience was based on what films are like in 2011.

The plot was: "A young car thief kills a policeman and tries to persuade a girl to hide in Italy with him." Then she betrayed him and the police killed him. After so many years of watching films, we have pretty much seen every possible storyline on-screen. A story so simple and straightforward seems a little...too simple.

Michel seemed to see women as objects ("Oh well they're dogs"); making stereotypical generalisations to countries and genders; he basically survived through stealing money from girls and robbing people, driving away someone else's car and then sell it. I don't think many people would have empaphised with him.

Being in black and white takes away a big fraction of visual interest from the start; the handheld camera shots are sometimes unsteady and most importantly, the editing - one scene jumping to another without any connection in-between.

Breathless (1960)

Later research showed these 'flaws' are in fact what made this film revolutionary - the low budget production ($50,000) shot its street scenes by placing its only cameraman in a wheelchair and pushed by Godard; the 'jump cut' technique was invented while Godard needed to cut down on the film's length; and the storyline was about modern life of that time instead of traditional tales. The film seems cliche because it was the pioneer in terms of film-making techniques and many others followed.

I haven't seen other films from this period so I can't make a comparison, but what I love the most about this film is the beautiful Patricia, her sharp and elegant dress sense and the bright streets of Paris.

Last week I watched Christopher Nolan's famous Inception for the very first time, because the more I read / heard about it, the more I feel that I need to be ready to get into the story, not just use it as a time killer.

There's enough interpretation of which is reality and which is dream; I dreamt about going through layers of dreams that night right after reading reviews. During the film I constantly remind myself which layer they are at, and was pretty sure I know which one is the real world - up until Cobb waking up on his plane seat.

Inception (2010)

Some say it's the confusion of not knowing which is reality, but what got me at this scene is the fear of
what we believe in is actually not real. And the spinning top at the end is like a question to this fear: will you choose to believe in it anyway? Similar scenario was also in Nolan's Memento (2000), where I had the same feeling toward the end of the film. Maybe in both cases the characters just carried on believing to make themselves feel a little better.

Interestingly, in Breathless Patricia also questioned her love for Michel - "I wanted to see you, to see if I'd want to see you."

After watching Derren Brown's The Experiment: The Gameshow on TV and catching up The Assasin online, aside from the argument of if they were staged or not, I was thrilled a person can be controlled to do something unconsciously to such an extend, like killing another person; as well as people's conscious, deliberate choice of behaviour.

While waiting for the next 'experiment', I started watching Trick or Treat, a 2008 series that I can remember seeing it at the time it was on, but for some reason never watched.

At the beginning of each episode, a member of the public is asked to choose one from two cards to determine the following events to be happened to them, but the ambigram on the cards means in fact they are not in control of their own fate. Whichever card they choose, it's up to Brown to decide whether it's a lovely experience or something out of their imagination.

Trick or Treat (2008)

They are all very memorable due to the surreal settings of the events; even ones who experienced tricks said they were delighted to have taken part. The one I like the most is where an old lady won second prize of a profesional poker game - has she learned Brown's observation techniques in 2 weeks? I have no idea, but it was so sweet to see her and her husband's happy smiles.

On the down side, everything is probably a big fat lie. On the plus side, we may as well just go with the flow and make the most of it.


  1. Really nice blog, Christy :D x

  2. I like the link to Inception about the "belief in reality" ...its something that really interests me! Inception is a really intriguing movie. *I've been meaning to watch Memento too*