No wonder Jean-Luc Godard called it A Bout de Souffle (Breathless)—the characters stop running only to start talking and their talking is a logorrhoea of caprice, probing and self-defence. Superficially it is a study of a lost generation; but generations are never lost without good reason, and the film is not an account of motives and causes (if it were it would be a criminological case-history) but a study in sensibility. Its nearest equivalent in English literature is Henry James to whose elephantine precision, hesitations and self-consciousness in the pursuit of obscure yet vaguely huge soul-states it approximates by the flippant paradox, the pun and the non sequitur. If Henry James in search of clarifications seems to pant like a bloodhound pursuing its own tail, the hero of A Bout de Souffle has abandoned the vicious circles of self-analysis for the shrug, the droop or jut of a fag, and the facetious grimace….
What distinguishes A Bout de Souffle from a mere demonstration of falsity (which would be too easy to be interesting) is that the inauthenticity is conscious, total and follows a sinewy discipline of its own. It is lived, not just brooded over….
Michel is not serious about life and death, but he is very serious about moral commitment….
This distinction, far from justifying his action, doesn't even palliate it; no amount of argument can make him seem, for...
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