Endings: Breathless (1983)

“God, you’re such a fuck-up” says a casual business associate. “Yeah, I know” Jesse (Richard Gere) responds.

Part crime story, part love story, Jesse’s rough ‘n tumble lifestyle was bound to lead to heartache. The trajectory is clear from the first minute of the story — Jessie’s manner tells you everything you need to know with the unfocused gaze, slick smile, and carefree posture.

A character who casually murders a cop then dances and prances alone in the shower an hour later clearly doesn’t consider consequences. Yet the consequences assault him at every turn. For someone who tries to live in the moment he wastes a lot of time correcting past actions.

A few highlights

  • the soundtrack (a diverse selection from Philip Glass to Sam Cooke to King Sunny Ade)
  • Jessie’s obsession, even allegiance, to the ideals embodied by the Silver Surfer, a comic he returns to frequently throughout the flick
  • Monica (ValĂ©rie Kaprisky), the French college student swept away by Jesse’s force majeure
  • A cacophony of classic cars

So how’s it all end? Seemingly inevitable tragedy? Redemption, clarity, forgiveness? Luck and a trip to Mexico with no hint of character growth?

How about betrayal? Monica calls the cops in a moment of despair…a glimmer of a chance for escape…but what does escape mean without his lover? Rather than run we’re left with Jesse reaching down for the gun between his feet, freeze frame as he straightens up and aims for the calvary, outgunned, but not outloved.

I love a movie that leaves the ending open to interpretation. Jesse mowed down, suicide by cop would have been sad. But cutting a few seconds short of that leaves you with a sense of love triumphing over all, before the blood washes all other feelings away.

Twists: 2
Execution: 9
Satisfaction: 8

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