Manny Farber on Godard

Probably his most influential scene was hardly noticed when Breathless appeared in 1959. While audiences were attracted to a likable, agile hood, American bitch, and the hippity-hop pace of a 1930s gangster film, the key scene was a flat, uninflected interview at Orly airport with a just-arrived celebrity author. The whole movie seemed to sit down and This Thing took place: a ducklike amateur, fiercely inadequate to the big questions, slowly and methodically trades questions and answers with the guest expert. His new movies, ten years later, rest almost entirely on this one-to-one simplicity.

This flat scene, appearing at points where other films blast out in plot-solving action, has been subtly cooling off, abstracting itself, with the words becoming like little trolley-car pictures passing back and forth across a flattened, neuterized scene. This monotony idea, which is repeated in so many crucial areas, in sculpture (Bollinger), painting (Noalnd), dance (Rainer), or underground film (Warhol), has practically washed his film away from all of its eclectic old movie moorings.

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