Monday, September 22, 2008


In the film Pickpocket by Robert Bresson, we focus on the main character of Michel. Michel is recently out of jail for pickpocketing, which is his hobby at the time, and goes to visit his mother who dies. He then needs to start to pick pockets as a way to survive. We see him meet some men who know how to pick pockets, and he learns some things from them.

He is at the race track and goes into a woman's purse, and also takes men's wallets. He becomes so good at his craft that he is able to pickpocket wallets on the subway. His good friends can see that he is headed down a bad path and they try to help him, but the thrill he gets from pickpocketing is too good, and so he would rather live a dishonest life than have his friends help him out.

The camera work and editing in the film are fabulous. we see several close up of Michel's hands as he goes about his pickpocketing. A particular scene is where he is practicing his pickpocketing with the man who is teaching him how to do it better. The hands move so fast, you have to pay close attention to see what all is happening.

Also, several times throughout the film, one sees a low camera angle, focused on Michel's feet as he is walking, and all you hear are the clacking noises of his shoes. A particular time this stands out to me is when he is waiting in the bank, looking for the next person to make his victim. All you hear are the hurried footsteps of Michel which is better than any musical piece Bresson could have put in there. The hurried footsteps, seem to match the quickening of Michel's heartbeat, and his adrenaline begins to surge. As the footsteps quicken, you can't help but hold your breath, or move to the edge of your seat in anticipation.

One cannot help but like this movie. While the moral of the story may not be the best, it is very entertaining. And when Michel is caught, while you feel bad for him, you also feel a sense of triumph that goodness has prevailed.

Bob Le Flambeur

This film by Jean-Pierre Melville was a great "gangster film". In many ways it fit right into the gangster genre. It was released in 1958, and filmed in 1956.

The main character Bob, is broke. So he decides to pull off a big job, of robbing a casino. He portrays the typical gangster, commanding every one's respect, being known everywhere he goes. He seems to have his own table at the local bar.

Bob is a character that many could identify with. He seems like a typical gangster, yet does things that one does not expect. For example, he clearly likes Anne, yet he never tries to sleep with her. he does however, allow her to come and stay at his apartment. He also has a prodigy named Paolo, whom he is grooming to be much like himself. Paolo likes Anne, and so Bob lets him take the lead with her, he only treats her as a friend or sister. You can however, clearly see he cares for Anne in the scene where they are dancing. He very well might like things to go further, but he cares for Paolo too much.

We see how much he cares for Paolo when at the end of the film, Paolo is killed. Bob runs out of the casino and lays Paolo's head in his lap, while he quickly grieves for him. Bob is sad that Paolo had to die, especially when he realizes that if he had shown up when he was supposed to Paolo's death may have been avoided.

The night of the "job" Bob goes to the casino ahead of time to scope things out. While there luck has another plan for Bob. he decides to gamble and wins a fortune, basically all that was in the casino's vaults (therefore defeating the point of the heist.)

Clearly this film was very influential. As in Breathless, when Michele is trying to get his check cashed, he is told that if Bob the gambler wasn't in prison, he would cash it.

This film was enjoyable all the way through. One could get lost in the gangster genre very quickly, as you never know what will happen next.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Breathless by Jean-Luc Godard is an interesting film. This film was very influential, many other directors have mimicked it. (Quintin Tarrantino was a big fan.) Godard was very much influenced by Humphrey Bogart, and you can see many references to Humprhey and his films.

This film was very influential in part because of jump shots or jump cuts, in which there is a lapse in continuity. Also, Godard violated the 180 degree rule. This film alludes to the crime/gangster drama.

The characters in this film, especially Michel are influenced by the films that they see. In one scene we see where Michel sees a poster of Humprhey Bogart, and he mimics what Humprhey does. he runs his fingers around his lips, and he chain smokes as does Humphrey Bogart in many of his films.

This film talks about love in a very abstract way. You often question why the characters are doing the things that they do. Why does Michel lie about everything? Why does Patricia believe him? (who has a different car every time you see them?) We are able to see the impact that media has had on every day life. Patricia sells the paper, and again the above reference to the movies. Also, you see people buying papers all the time, Michel always does to stay current on his warrant for arrest. We see signs lit up above buildings with breaking news.

This film strongly reminded my of The Maltese Falcon by John Huston. That too was a crime film, but the strongest similarity to me was that a loved one was turned in to the police by a lover. In The Maltese Falcon, Sam turns in Brigid even though he is in love with her. In Breathless Patricia turns in Michel, her reasoning is that she needed to see if she did actually love him, and her answer was that no she did not, if she was able to turn him in. However, after she calls the inspector she seems to feel some remorse, as she tells him and tries to convince him to flee from the cops.

This film, I imagine would have been very exciting in it's day. With it's playing with the crime genre, the use of media and movie influence on the characters lives, this would have been a new idea and probably could have made a viewer quite breathless!

The Cousins

The film The Cousins by Claude Chabrol is a tale of two young men, both trying to find their place in the world. Chabrol made this film when he inherited some money. At the time this film was made (1959) in France the average film cost about $300,00 American dollars to make it. This film was made for about $60,000 American dollars. Chabrol is often compared to Hitchcock, as many of his films are psychological thrillers. Chabrol is still making films today.

The film centers around two main characters, Charles and Paul. The other important character is Florence. Charles has come to Paris to study law, and he will be staying with his free-spirited, slight arrogant cousin Paul. Paul also is studying law, though one would never guess this by Paul's behavior. In the film Paul is cool and suave, and Charles is always trying to catch up with Paul, while still being his own person.

There is a lot of foreshadowing in this film. When Charles is studying the night before his exam, he sends Florence (the woman with whom he is in love) away. As she leaves, the camera spins around the room, like Charles is spinning out of control. This is one of the moments when you can see that Charles would like to be having fun and being carefree with Paul. Instead Charles spends the night studying, while Paul throws a party celebrating his passing of the exam, which he did not preparing for. When Charles fails the exam, he takes out his anger on Paul. The jealousy becomes too much. We again see foreshadowing when we always see Paul with the gun, you just know something is going to go wrong eventually. We see foreshadowing again, when Charles puts one bullet in the gun, goes into Paul's bedroom, while Paul is sleeping, and asks the question "will he still be lucky?" And Paul is, unfortunately Charles is not. Later that morning, as Paul is again playing with a gun (who plays with a gun, only someone extremely arrogant!) a shot is fired, and Charles is killed.

You feel no empathy for any of the characters is the film. You see Paul as spoiled and arrogant, doing things he should not, and living a lifestyle he should not be living. You see Charles, and while one might want to feel empathy for him, there is plenty which will discourage. My favorite, is when Charles finds out that Paul and Florence are together, and they are all going to be living together, his response is "I'll get my turn!" ugh!!!

Also, I felt nothing but contempt for Florence. Here is a woman who lets someone tell her who should she love. She thinks she is falling for Charles, so she tells Paul and Clovis, and they both tell her, that she needs to be in love with Paul instead, and so she just agrees! She touches his face, and suddenly they are in love! Ridiculous!

This film tries to stress the importance of conformity. Everyone being the same, whether it is the right way to be or not. Charles is always trying to fit in with Paul's crowd, Florence is trying to make everyone happy, herself last, and Paul is living the swinging lifestyle that he thinks is cool. Conformity is not the answer.

The 400 Blows

In the 400 blows by Francois Truffaut, we see the story of an young boy, a teenager who becomes reckless in his behavior. This was Truffaut's first feature film, and it came out in 1959. The film won best director award at the Cannes film festival. The film was dedicated to Andre Bazin who had a major influence over french new wave directors.

The film is very much autobiographic. The story is based on Truffaut's own life as a young boy. We see a boy, named Antoine who lives with his parents who seem to care very little about his moral upbringing. We see the Father, always making jokes with Antoine, sometimes even jokes at his mother's expense. When the mother goes to bring in the dinner, the father tells Antoine to ask why it smells like a dishrag is burning. We see the Mother who is constantly annoyed by the son, he always seems to be in her way. The only time her attitude is drastically different is after Antoine sees his mother kissing another man. She then tries to bribe him into keeping her secret, by offering money.

One could delve deeply into the Freudian relationship between Antoine and his mother. We see a scene where he sees her taking of her stocking, and this scene is much too erotic for a mother and son. We also have the father asking the son, what he thinks about his mother looks/body? What teenage boy would want to be asked that, let alone receive that visual?!?The film does not end neatly and this annoyed me. Antoine runs to the lake/ocean, but then what happens? We do not know. To some this might seem like a nice open ending, where you can imagine whatever you want, but after learning that the actor (Jean-Pierre LĂ©aud) who plays Antoine goes on to play the same character in other films, the ending seems to make much more sense. This film gives a good example of a juvenile delinquent whose parents are too self-absorbed to see what is happening to their child.