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May 21, 1983 - Image 8

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1983-05-21

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Page 13

Saturday, May 21, 1983

The Michigan Dailv

The air is thin in 'Breathless'



Heaven; Stony, the rebellious son in
By Susan Makuch Bloodbrothers; Julian, a man who
learns to love in American Gigolo; and
finally Zack Mayo in an Officer and a
R ICHARD GERE can take just about Gentleman - an immature man who
anyone's breath away - including fights society and himself to become
mine. His unique combination of innate the best person he can be.
sexual magnetism and legitimate ac- The next character on Gere's
ting ability has created a bevy of com- schedule promised to be just as com-
pelling screen characters: Bill, the pelling - that of Jesse Lujack (an
money-hungry drifter in Days of Americanized version of Jean-Paul

Belmondo's charcter Michel Poicarrd)
in the long-awaited remake of the
French New Wave classic, Breathless.
But even Richard Gere, one of the most
talented actors working in films today,
cannot salvage anything from this
misguided and poorly written venture.
L.M. Kit Carson and Jim McBride
(both collaborated on the script, Mc-
Bride directed) got the bright idea a
few years back to pay homage to a man
they both respected for his contribution
to the cinema: Jean-Luc Godard, direc-
tor of the first (and superior)
Breathless. They decided to honor their
hero by re-working his New Wave
masterpiece. Of course, by supplanting
the action in Los Angeles (instead of
Paris) the principles had to be swit-
Instead of a French two-bit car theif
Michel and his American architecture
student-girlfriend Patricia as the
primary focus, American two-bit car
theif Jesse and his French architecture
student-girlfriend Monica are the ones
who cavort around in lustful
Back in 1959, lust for the sake of lust
was a new and untried territory. Today,
however, after films like Last Tango in
Paris and Body Heat, such attitudes
have become old hat.
The problem with Breathless (1983),
however, is not the stale storyline -
that might have been easily overcome
with characters that could evoke em-
pathy and interest. Breathless is a
character study - the action often
takes a backseat to the individual
stories. Thus, without an in-depth ad-
venture into the backgrounds and
psyches of Jesse and Monica, the pic-
ture falls short.
Carson and McBride fail in their at-
tempt to emulate the avant-garde
Godard because they createdan ob-
session without any foundation. We do
not know why Jesse becomes engulfed
with the mere thought of Monica. Is it
her obvious physical beauty? Is it her
sexual prowess? Is it her superior in-
telligence? The writers never give us a
clue as to what the answer may be.

This very basic question of Jesse's
obsession provides the key to the rest of
the story. Jesse does a lot of stupid
things - like risking his capture by the
police in order to win Monica's affection -
a girl he met just a few days ago.
At a crucial point in the film, when
Jesse re-enters Monica's life, she utters
the French word tare to him. What does
it mean, Jesse queries. "It means a
Starring: Richard Gere and Valerie Kaprisky
Directed by Jim McBride
Playing at State Theater
crazy, disgusting person; a jerk,"
Monica explains. That just about sum-
marizes the depth of Gere's character.
Jesse has no goals, no morals, no needs.
His motto is, he repeatedly states, "all
or nothing."
Besides the obvious physical attrac-
tion, it's quite difficult to understand
what would possess a smart young lady
like Monica to tolerate the sheer
childishness of Jesse. His depth cannot
be measured - it's too shallow.
Jesse relates to three things in life:
women, money, and Jerry Lee Lewis.
He cruises down a highway in a stolen
car, singing along with a rousing tune
from Jerry Lee, trying to impress some
girls riding next to him with some fancy
(and fast) maneuvering. This scene
could occur at the beginning, middle, or
end - anywhere - because Jesse does
not changea bit anywhere in between.
Gere does what he can with this role,
but he has absolutely nothing to work
with. At times, because of Gere's
thespian abilities, Jesse becomes
almost interesting. But these moments
create frustration in the viewer - we
know there's some reason for this
crazed behavior, but we never discover
Surprisingly, Valerie Kaprisky holds
See GERE, Page 11






r ? 4.
Richard Gere and Valerie Kaprisky portray a couple caught up in the
whirlwind of breathtaking romance in Breathless.'


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