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Dustin Putman

Breathless  (1983)

Reviewed for by Dustin Putman

The Film
3 Stars
(Release Date: April 7, 2015) – In a film career that has spanned five decades, Richard Gere has always been a magnetic presence, but he has rarely been as lively and free-spirited as he is in Jim McBride's same-named 1983 U.S. remake of Jean-Luc Godard's 1960 French New Wave romance "Breathless." Set among Los Angeles' sultry Santa Ana winds, the film pairs an untamed Gere with the eye-catching Valérie Kaprisky in a star-crossed, inevitably doomed love story both over-the-top and voraciously watchable. "Silver Surfer"-loving casual criminal Jesse Lujack (Richard Gere) steals a Porsche in Vegas and hits the road for La La Land, on his way to surprise the lovely Monica (Valérie Kaprisky), the college student with whom he not long ago shared a passionate weekend. On his way, he is involved in a confrontation with a police officer that leaves the cop dead. With law enforcement closing in, Jesse tries to convince Monica to run away with him to Mexico. She knows he is all wrong for her, that her ambitious, career-oriented life is heading in an entirely different direction than his, but turning her back on him is easier said than done.

Quixotically lensed by cinematographer Richard H. Kline, "Breathless" is both sexy and maddening in the best way. Jesse is a lunatic with a short fuse who invades Monica's life the same way a stalker might. He breaks into her apartment, he hijacks an important university meeting she has with department chairmen, he even tosses her answering machine out the window when he gets upset. Monica sees how possessive and irresponsible he is, but she is drawn to him all the same. Her conflicted decisions are understandable and her actions believable, if not always sound. Gere gives his role of Jamie an attractive charm and confidence; he is a loose cannon that draws in the viewer in the same way he does Monica. His chemistry with the luminous Kaprisky is white-hot, giving "Breathless" its intrigue and emotion, just as director Jim McBride—equipped with a cool soundtrack that includes Jerry Lee Lewis, Sam Cooke and The Pretenders—lends the film its stylish, offbeat, renegade verve.

Blu-ray Picture/Sound

"Breathless" seduces its way onto Blu-ray courtesy of Shout! Factory with a 1080p transfer that is inconsistent but more often than not an inviting catalogue-release looker. Things start shaky with an early driving sequence set against the backdrop of a fiery-red sunset, the glow of this hot tinting turning all fine detail to mud. Following this, the image improves dramatically. There are instances of age-related print damage on the order of specks of dirt and debris and some shots are softer than others, but for the most part this is a relatively clean, aesthetically robust presentation with some nice depth and a notable uptick in clarity and resolve from all past standard-def versions of this film. The 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio is quite effective, a healthy aural mix of dialogue and music that sounds full and accurate to source. The great soundtrack shines through particularly well.

Blu-ray Features
  • Theatrical Trailer (2:26, HD)
Bottom Line
"Breathless" may be set in North America, but it is very much rooted in an unconventional French sensibility. This may be the reason why the film never really took off at the box office when it was released in May 1983, and why it seems to have been largely forgotten by modern audiences. Leave it to Shout! Factory to give this wild-at-heart romancer a shot at deserved rediscovery with this welcome high-definition release. Sensual, provocative and beautifully shot, highlighted by sparkling turns from Richard Gere and Valérie Kaprisky, "Breathless" comes highly recommended on Blu-ray.

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© 2015 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman

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