Picks and Pans Review: Breathless

UPDATED 05/30/1983 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 05/30/1983 at 01:00 AM EDT

A Paris hood steals a car, shoots a cop, and runs off with an American girl, who finally turns him in. Standard film fodder. But back in 1960, in the hands of young screenwriter and debuting director Jean-Luc Godard, the film—Breathless—became an instant classic, inaugurated the New Wave in cinema, and made international stars of Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg. Now underground director Jim (David Holzman's Diary) McBride and his co-writer, L.M. Kit Carson, have had the guts, some might say the gall, to remake and update it. They've switched the locale to Los Angeles and the nationalities of the lovers, now played by Richard Gere and French newcomer Valerie Kaprisky (page 79), but kept the basic plot. And though Godard's striking original remains in every respect superior, McBride and friends put on quite a show. Godard was poeticizing American gangster films, especially Bogart's; McBride is waxing lyrical about American pop culture. The seedy neon glare of L.A. has never flared more luridly or luminously. The highly touted sex scenes also deliver. The charming Kaprisky, 19, lacks the late Seberg's elegant bitchiness but possesses a full-bodied sensuality and plays her nude scenes with Gere as if the cameraman had gone home. Though this is not one of Gere's lazy American Gigolo performances, he is less successful than his co-star. While he perfectly captures the jazzy, pretty-boy surface of his amoral character, he can't seem to cut deeper. Gere is not a bad actor, merely a limited one. Belmondo had reserves of talent to draw the audience in; Gere is not as well endowed. Still, McBride covers most of the shortcomings with a flashy style that's just right for the material. Along with a fan's respect, he covers old Godard ground with an artist's eye and a rhythm all his own. (R)

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