Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Michel, the chain smoking anti-hero in Godard's Breathless, has everyman written all over him. In modern context, the idea of a person being hypnotized by popular culture is especially relevant. In a society where murderers are defended by a "video games made me do it" excuse, the idea that a film or any piece of art can have such an influence over someone is definitely worth exploring.

While not incredibly overbearing, it is very clear that Michel idolizes the American gangster. The way this is portrayed in Breathless would seem to be in concert with the criticisms many bring to bear on modern art and media. Michel seems to switch very quickly and nonchalantly from normal to criminal. It is as though his criminal actions have no effect on him, or he has no conscience. It is not really explored in the film how much American film has influenced these actions, or what kind of person was in the past, but a case could certainly be made either way.

At the time that this film was made, I am not sure how much people really believed that film or any kind of art could be responsible for the actions of its audience. This probably has to do with the ultra violent entertainment that has since become such an integral part of our culture. It is also unclear to me whether or not Godard saw this idolization as pure fantasy, only used as a thematic device, or whether he really thought such was a real issue.

Speculation aside, Michel is certainly a very interesting character worthy of attention. He seemingly has no moral compass and literally lives for his primal pleasures and desires. It is simply much easier for him to commit a robbery than spend his time working at a nine to five job. Even his dealings with women have 'instant gratification' written all over them. He is the personification of a degenerate youth, yet you can't help but watch his every move.

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