“Breathless” (1983)

The film “Breathless” is an excellent remake of honorary Oscar winner, Jean- Luc Godard’s 1960 French film of the same name. The remake’s central character is Jesse Lujack, aka Jesse Burns, aka Jesse Lee Burns, portrayed by Golden Globe winner, Richard Gere (Chicago). He is a car thief who loves Jerry Lee Lewis music and Silver Surfer comic books. At the start of the film, Jessie steals a Porsche 356A coupe, outside of a Las Vegas casino. His intention is to get out of Vegas as quickly as possible and make his way to California. Jesse is a high energy individual, and while driving, along the way, his impatience at being slowed down by a truck that is in front of him, leads to his being pursued by a highway patrol officer (Jack Leustig). Earlier, while driving, Jesse discovered a handgun in the glove compartment of the Porsche. When he is pulled over, in an attempt to get rid of the gun before the officer can see it, it accidently goes off, and the officer is killed. Jesse in full panic mode, leaves the scene of the crime, and continues on his way to California. (As an aside: Oscar winner, Robert DeNiro (Godfather II), Oscar winner Al Pacino (Scent of a Woman), and two time Golden Globe winner John Travolta (Get Shorty), were all considered for the lead role of Jesse. Furthermore, Marvel’s Silver Surfer character was created by Jack Kirby, and debuted in Fantastic Four # 48 in 1966).

Jesse’s desire to get to California revolves around a very attractive woman he’s smitten with, and had a brief fling with in Vegas. Her name is Monica (Valerie Kaprisky). She is from France, and has come to America to study architecture. Monica has no idea that Jesse is coming to see her. She’ll outright tell him, when he interjects himself into her life, interrupting an important exam she’s taking at school, that she never expected to see him again. (As an aside: Golden Globe winner, Nastassja Kinski (Tess), was originally considered to play the role of Monica. In addition, as of the writing of this post, “Breathless” is the only American film that Valerie Kaprisky has ever done).  

Even though Monica is an above average student, who according to her teacher Paul (William Tepper), has a very bright future ahead of her, she can’t help, but be seduced by Jesse’s charms. Jesse, driven entirely by impulse, wants Monica to leave school, forget about her career, and come with him to Mexico to start a new life. The only thing standing in their way is that he needs to cash a check he received for delivering a stolen car to one of his contacts. Whenever Monica asks Jesse a question regarding how they’ll live, or what they’ll do once his money runs out, Jesse brushes it aside with a quick answer, in essence, telling her not to worry. He lives his life in the immediate moment, and he expects her to adhere to the same style of living.

Impulsive or not, Jesse’s plans for a life in Mexico with Monica are dependent on several things. Firstly, the cashing of the check. He has a number of contacts in the Los Angeles area, but each one he goes to either doesn’t have money, or is trying to take advantage of him, because of his predicament with law enforcement, such as salvage yard operator, Birnbaum (Art Metrano). Even Jesse’s friend Berrutti (Gary Goodrow), who can get the money for him, but he’ll have to wait overnight, something Jesse is hesitant to do. Pursuing Jesse for the murder of the highway patrol officer is LT. Parmental (John P. Ryan), and Sgt. Enright (Robert Dunn). They are seemingly only one step behind Jesse and Monica, wherever they go. Can Jesse and Monica make it out of Los Angeles, and begin a life together in Mexico? Does their outlaws on the run story come to a tragic end?

“Breathless” was directed by Jim McBride (The Big Easy). The screenplay was written by L.M. Kit Carson (The Hitchhiker). Carson’s screenplay, as aforementioned, is based on the 1960 film written and directed by Godard, which was from a story by BAFTA winner, Francois Truffaut (Day for Night). Additional contributions to the original “Breathless” were made by Claude Chabrol (Rien ne va plus), but he was not given credit. Music for the remake was composed by Oscar winner Jack Nitzsche (An Officer and a Gentleman), and synchs up very well with what is transpiring on screen. “Breathless” was released to theaters in the United States on May 13, 1983. Parts action, drama, romance, and thriller the movie has a runtime of 100 minutes.

“Breathless” is intense in parts, and well paced, with each scene helping to advance the narrative. The cinematography by Oscar nominee Richard H. Kline (King Kong – 1976), is spot on, and transforms Los Angeles into an additional character throughout the film. Gere and Kaprisky have very good chemistry together. For fans of Gere, who might not be familiar with this entry from the earlier part of his career, this should provide for interesting entertainment. Those of you who value the cinematic opinions of two time Oscar winner, Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction), might be interested in the film, as he considers “Breathless” to be one of the coolest movies he’s ever seen. Furthermore, those of you who saw the original Godard film, might want to see what an America remake of the French New Wave classic looks like. As of the writing of this post “Breathless” is available to stream on Tubi.


About robbinsrealm

I was born in Smithtown, New York, and grew up, worked, and lived in various areas of Long Island before moving to Boca Raton, Florida where I now make my home. In addition to being an aspiring writer, I am also an English teacher. I have a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Master’s Degree in Education, both from Adelphi University in Garden City, New York. In my spare time you will find me engrossed in books, watching movies, socializing with friends, or just staying active.
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2 Responses to “Breathless” (1983)

  1. Americaoncoffee says:

    Will definitely watch. Thanks for the nice review.

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