I watched Godard's Breathless again last night. I'd started watching Tous le matins du monde (1991) but the subtitles were messed up so I had to stop. But Tous les matins du monde's long static shots and sombre characters made Breathless even more fun in comparison--Breathless being a movie where Godard cut anything out he didn't find interesting, resulting in chopped up shots that feel as though someone's fast forwarding.
The early scene where Jean-Paul Belmondo talks to the camera made me realise Tom Jones was likely an attempt to use New Wave technique in an English language film. The reason I'd been watching Tom Jones, by the way, is that my anthropology teacher had mentioned it as the movie that changed cinema with its techniques, and that anyone serious about movies would have seen it--meanwhile I'd never heard of it. But, as I've said, the movie hardly turned out to be revolutionary--I suppose it should come as no surprise to me the guy didn't know what he was talking about.
Things that feel organic and exciting in Breathless feel obnoxious and phoney in Tom Jones. Like talking to the camera--Belmondo does it early in Breathless while telling us his opinions. Michel, the character he plays, models his life after characters in the movies, so it makes sense that he would engage a movie audience that's, for him, in his head. But even apart from this, him talking to the camera feels natural, a mode for him talking to himself. In Tom Jones, Susannah York flashes a grin at the camera while she and Albert Finney are engaged in horseplay--the grin accompanied by a musical sting. As though to say, "How outrageous a thing, she's looking at the camera!" It's used as a cheap ploy to give us more sympathy for the leads than for the villains in the film.
Tom Jones is a lesser film, too, for featuring character types rather than characters--the scoundrel with the heart of gold, Tom, and Sophie, the highborn young woman who loves him despite her family opinion. Breathless is a movie without heroes or villains, just poor souls trying to figure this fucking existence out. I found myself sympathising more with Patricia this time--last time I felt myself more with Michel. But that line where Patricia says she wants to know what's behind Michel's face got me last time, too. You just can't know. Which is why I don't think she's as wicked as Roger Ebert does in his review. I just think she made a mistake in dealing with life using imperfect human psychological devices.