(hoopla/kanopy) I last watched Jim McBride’s (DAVID HOLZMAN’S DIARY, GREAT BALLS OF FIRE) remake of BREATHLESS many moons ago, back when I could walk down the street to my cult video store and rent a VHS copy. Despite not thinking much of it at the time, I have vivid memories of the film’s neon spills, as well as one terrible joke:
“You know Frank Lloyd Wright? This is Frank Lloyd Wrong.”
Watching it recently, after years of scrutinizing adaptations, I realized I was far too tough on it.
Structurally, McBride’s film is the same as Godard’s, he just inverts the locale and the protagonists’ countries of origin; instead of taking place in France with a French cad (Jean-Paul Belmondo) and American love interest (Jean Seberg), it’s an American cad (Richard Gere) with a French love interest (Valérie Kaprisky).
McBride, and screenwriter L.M. Kit Carson (TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSCRE 2 -and- PARIS, TEXAS) are aware that trying to recreate the verve of 60’s BREATHLESS would be futile, so they ramp matters up a bit. Their BREATHLESS is a sleek, neon-soaked affair that wants nothing to do with jump cuts. Gere’s no longer an admirer of Bogart, but instead idolizes Jerry Lee Lewis. He doesn’t have the cool collected air of Belmondo, but instead is a ball of energy, constantly moving. As opposed to the erotic tête-à-tête between Belmondo & Seberg, they lean into full-blown sex scenes.
Is it a good film? Arguably, yes, it’s a gripping erotic thriller. Is it on par with Godard’s BREATHLESS? Oh, no, please. Godard’s BREATHLESS is a genre masterpiece, stitched together by sheer reactionary inventiveness and the vibrant performances from the leads. McBride’s BREATHLESS is a fascinating flip side, shining a spotlight on American appetites that falters mostly because both Gere and Kaprisky, and American culture in general, lack the enigmatic allure that makes the original film work.
One last note: BREATHLESS (1983) leaves Hulu on February 28th!