2 March 2009 | Quinoa1984
the Making of Breathless, seen 33 years later by something of a "fan"
Hosted by French TV personality Claude Ventura, Chambre 12, Hotel de Suede at first concerns the host/co-director staying at the same hotel and the same hotel room where Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg stayed at in one of those quintessential man/woman in hotel room scenes in movies in Breathless. Then it goes into what it's really about: finding people to talk about how one of the most revolutionary films made in is time got made, the clashes, the little triumphs, the sense that "something" was happening even as the film got a bad reputation even before it got released and blew almost all people who saw it away. It's filmed by Ventura and a co-director in black and white, mimicking exact shots from Breathless (to be fair, he is a geek for this stuff and shows it which is fine) and including clips, perhaps pretentiously, on a little hand-held TV set.
Some of the narration bits where Ventura continues to contemplate the "challenge" from Jean-Luc Godard, when he talked to him for 15 seconds on the phone and told him "Dream on" when he asked if he could ask questions about Breathless, don't stick entirely well. But thankfully this is only intermittently, and enough for Ventura to do what he's really good at which are the interviews. He gets Claude Chabrol, who was a "technical adviser" who actually didn't really do nothing much except give name power for Godard, Raoul Coutard, who reveals there was some pretty tight friction on the set, Jean-Paul Belmondo, who says there wasn't from Godard but admits the film didn't get the best reputation before it was released (i.e. erratic shooting schedule, angry but fair producer de Beauregard, no sound shot during filming, weird editing process), and some minor players like Roger Hanin and even an old friend of Godard's from Geneva who admits that many little things in the film, character names and gestures are taken right from Godard's time in the Swiss city.
A lot of this information is useful and entertaining if you're the kind of film buff who loves to watch documentaries on a making of a film where the people behind it don't hold much back (especially in something as retrospective as a film made 33 years before). But even those who come across the doc who have just seen the film or are just getting into Godard and picked it up with the Criterion DVD will dig it. It gets to why Breathless was made at a real crossroads of the French film industry, and what made it so different from most films around (even Truffaut and Chabrol's first films, which immediately preceded Godard). It's no A.K. or Lost in La Mancha as far as "making-of" docs go, but it's pretty good.