Breathless's Jean Seberg

Jean-Luc Godard was a bad filmmaker who rose to mediocrity, then faded back to nada. He was part of a bad group of film critics for a magazine called Cahiers du Cinema. I mention this because I was recently thinking of his first film, the Charles Bukowskian 'so bad some idiots think it's genius' film, Breathless. The link will give you my take on this lame film.

But, in scanning over some of the increasingly inane comments over at Roger Ebert's post about me, and aside from the silly digressions on Hitler, perhaps the oddest claims (made by Ebert and others) is how the film Casablanca is so geared toward the beauty of Ingrid Bergman. True, she is highlighted, and she was quite a looker, in her day. So?

The film is not even about her character, nor even the two men in her life's takes on her. To read some of the comments one would think she was the first actress to ever be adored by a film camera. Hello? Two words: Greta Garbo.

But, this returns me to Seberg:

Godard and his camera fetishize her even more than Curtiz did Bergman. And, while Casablanca's not a great film, it is a fun film. Breathless is neither. But Breathless is far more about the beauty of Seberg, by Ebert's definition of 'face time', than Casablanca is about Bergman. And, let's face it, attraction is subjective, beauty is not, and Seberg's face is as flawlessly symmetrical as Halle Berry's. In short, Ingrid was a babe, but Seberg was a goddess. I'm talking rival to Grace Kelly gorgeous.

But, again: so? Does her beauty make Godard's bad film good? No. Neither does Bergman's lesser beauty make the solid and enjoyable Casablanca a great film.

A few other cleanup points: I'm hardly a snob. On Cosmoetica I've written of soap operas, Godzilla films, and pro wrestling, enjoying them all. There's simply a difference between liking something and its quality. I like many bad works of art, and dislike great ones. But, I recognize the differences. I like Richard Brautigan's doggerel, but don't really like Ingmar Bergman films. But, I know Bergman was a great artist. However, Saraband was a terrible film. And I didn't like it. Plan 9 From Outer Space is a terrible film. So is Robot Monster. I love them. It's really not difficult to grasp. No one has ever said it's wrong- in a moral sense- to like bad art. But, acknowledge the bias. I prefer Roger Moore to Sean Connery as James Bond. I can make good arguments as to why. But, on a purely acting level, Connery's a better actor. So? I like Moore's irreverent Bond more. But, I acknowledge my bias. That's not snobbery. It's honesty and intelligence.

Folk like the Cahiers du Cinema critics were snobs, broadbrushing whole schools of work, rather than seeing good and bad in all. They were the film school/film theory/auteurist snobs. Folk like Ebert or Siskel or Maltin are pop critics of film. I bridge the gap between both, exposing both the extremes' flaws: the fundamentalism of the snobs and the embracing of dumbed down culture of the pop crowd.

On a small note: I've gotten some bizarre emails re: this whole thread- ranging from the sinister to the absurd. On the dark side, an emailer who claimed to have posted on the thread issued me a dire warning that the original emailer to Ebert, Peter Svensland, had intended his email to cause Ebert to unleash a firestorm of scorn against me- thereby consigning my website to a Dantean outer ring, but it all backfired, and that there might be hell to pay from a cyberstalker's revenge denied. Well, while I wouldn't put it by that character, I doubt it. I do believe I may have been just a tool to get Ebert's attention because when the great man deigned to recognize him, he went into ecstasies, and this is a familiar pattern with stalker types. Either way, this isn't 2001, and I'm much more prepared for shenanigans of the cyber/virus sort.

On the absurd side, one of my biggest fans thinks I blew it with Ebert. He claims that Ebert is on his death bed and (having watched too many samurai films) was looking for a successor to bequeath his critical fiefdom to, and that I was not suitably deferential enough ('You gotta kiss the brass ring, Baby!'). This fellow, I know, is harmless, although his own home planet is a place I do not think I'll travel to. But, if correct, it means I won't 'own' Chicago, like Ebert, and Capone, before him. Too bad, I've always heard Chicago had fine babes.

Natheless, I'll always have Jeannie:

Y'all can have Ingrid!