"High Roller" Bob - The Original Bond

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With the first James Bond film not debuting until 1956 with "Dr. No," "High Roller" Bob was Bond before Bond came to the big screen. "Bob Le Flambeur" is a film that has the ability to stay relatively current even fifty years later. This film has obvious influence on both the films of the Bond franchise and also other films such as the "Ocean's..." franchise and other heist films. In the film, Bob is an old-time thief still looking for his big break. He gets the chance when he hears of a local hotel that has cash beyond his wildest dreams. Before the plan is set in motion, he abides by all of the Bond-like playboy rules that have been set since Bond has taken over in the U.S:

Rule number 1: Dress the Part.
- Bob has a different suit for every different mood he has. In every scene, he is dressed to the nine's in a different suit he had been wearing before.

Rule number 2: Display Swagger.
- That's right, I said it. Bob has swagger. He displays a sort of confidence that is unrivaled by anyone else in the film. Of course with the exception of his young protege, who is only trying to emulate Bob's every action.

Rule number 3: Be a Womanizer.
- While Mr. 007 shows an extreme affection for married woman, our man Bob doesn't discriminate. Whether its the gorgeous blonde, played by the beautiful Isabelle Corey, or the older woman who works at his favorite watering hole, Bob loves women.

Rule number 4: Get Money.
- Not only does Bob finally catch that streak of luck he's been looking for all of his life, but he manages to put together a very intricate plan to rob the bank. Even though the plan was sabotaged in very Bond-like fashion by a jealous and greedy woman, Bob still ends up with his share of cash in the end.

With all of this, it's not surprising to see the new age heist films of the day still thieving, pun intended, from old French New Wave Cinema.

The Irony of "Hiroshima Mon Amour"

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This particular film is centered on very ironic bases. First, the particular score of the film gives the overall tone a very ironic feeling. In the beginning of the film, the remains of Hiroshima are shown in a very documentary-like style. During these shots of debris, burned down buildings, people being trapped and being forced to break out, severely burned victims with their bodies being reduced to bones and scars, the nondiagesis is relatively light-hearted for something that has become so devastated. The use of these shocking images also adds a sense of shock value to the film. The story itself is also relatively ironic. The audience is introduced to the two lovers in the film during the description of war-torn Hiroshima. The contrast between their skin rubbing against each other and the destruction of the city is very vivid.

It's also very ironic that there are so many tragic stories being told in the middle of a tragedy. Granted that the war is over, the memory and the impact that it had on Hiroshima is very prevalent throughout the film. It is very interesting that not only is this love affair just that -- an affair. But this mutual love and admiration is also brought about by war. They even feel as if they should decide to leave each other, they will only be brought back together by another war. The ambiguous ending of the film only echoes this sentiment.

Russian Formalism and "Pickpocket"

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Pickpocket is a film that is centered on the life of a smalltime pickpocket after the death of his mother. In the opening sequence, Michel, the main character, is writing a letter about his past that leads into a scene at a racetrack. During the scene, he steals money from a woman’s purse and is later arrested for it. During the stealing sequence, the ‘complex sign’ is at work. The natural sign is comprised of the outdoor scene and all of the people who are at the racetrack; mainly focusing on Michel and the lady he is attempting to steal from. The conventional signs of this sequence include the outdoor scene and the transitional shots between his face and his hand on the purse. The sounds and lack thereof in this sequence are also an important part of the conventional sign. In the beginning of the sequence, there are sounds of a train and people talking with each other all around. As the scene continues, there is the also sound of the horses on the racetrack which allows Michel to steal the lady’s money. However, the lack of sound comes with the lack of clear dialogue.

The main focus of this sequence is Michel and his attempt at stealing from the lady’s purse. With the lack of dialogue between him and anyone else, the audience is forced to focus on the facial expressions of Michel – which leads to the expressive sign of the sequence. Throughout the sequence, Michel is shot in the center of the frame in a close-up. As the sequence unfolds, his facial expressions display emotions ranging from complete focus and tension to nervousness and fear and finally to relief as he successfully snatches the money.

The film also fulfills other Formalistic qualities. The fabula and sjuzhet, or story and plot, work to make the film more artistic. The fabula of the film is simply the story being told of a pickpocket. The sjuzhet of the film complicates the fabula with the use of certain artistic devices such as the flashback and beginning scenes ‘in medias res’; and thus, defamiliarizes the story for the audience. The previously mentioned sequence begins in the middle of the action. Instead of the audience seeing Michel prepare for his theft attempt and his arrival at the racetrack, the scene opens with Michel scoping out his victim. Even before that, the film opens with Michel writing a letter which makes the racetrack sequence and, subsequently, the entire film one big flashback sequence. With the sjuzhet altering the fabula in this way, it allows the imagination of the audience to work to fill in the gaps and answer the ambiguous questions left by the film in their own way.

A True Gangster in "Breathless"

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Breathless is a film that pays homage to the gangster films in the U.S. of the 50s and 60s.From the very opening sequence, the film is very fast paced. In the first few scenes of the film, Michel, played by Jean-Paul Belmondo, not only steals a car, but he also murders a cop in the process. The story is not the only fast-moving aspect of the film. The film itself has a very head-spinning quality with the use of jump cuts, handheld camera work, and extremely long tracking shots.

From then on, he carries himself in such a way that is extremely reminiscent to the archetypal gangster characters of the same time; especially his hero, Humphrey Bogart. He constantly smokes cigarettes and rubs his lips in a similar fashion to Bogart. Besides the obvious resemblance that Michel bares to Bogart, the film itself makes reference to him a few times. In one particular scene, Michel is being shot staring at a film poster for one of Humphrey’s films.

The film possesses one other very important aspect of the 1950’s gangster films: the femme fatale character. Patricia, played by Jean Seberg, proves to be Michel’s downfall at the end of the film. Throughout the story, Michel is constantly trying to pursue Patricia, even the morning after she had slept with someone else. He does so in a way that would make any wannabe 50’s gangster proud: constantly berating her, slapping her around, yelling at her – he definitely follows the proper protocol for ‘Womanizing in the Sixties.’

The Appeal of "The 400 Blows"

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The Appeal of The 400 Blows

This, the first of Truffaut’s feature films, has a very interesting appeal. The story centering on Antoine Doniel is one that is very unique for various reasons. Throughout the film, Antoine receives severe consequences for his continuous bad behavior that he displays. He acts out toward all of the adult figures in his life; especially when it comes to his parents. His mother shows a constant irritability towards him every time they are in the same room together. After learning that not only his mother bore him out of wedlock, but she also would have aborted him had not his grandmother talked her out of it, Antoine developed a little attitude problem – and rightfully so.

However, this acting out is also appealing to audiences because it is often displayed in a comedic manner. Particularly, the scene where the kids leave their teacher one by one is especially memorable. The way the scene is shot gives a very unique and omniscient view of how mischievous the kids are in the film. They write obscenities on school walls, fight during recess, drink their parents’ wine and smoke their father’s cigars, gouge their classmate’s glasses, and lie about their mothers being murdered. And ironically, whenever something like this happens, the scene carries a very joyous and uplifting score underneath it, which serves to add to the film’s appeal.

The performance of the actors also enhances the story. The film does not put a great deal of emphasis on the dialogue between characters. Even though that we learn of the skeletons in the Doniel’s closet through the dialogue between the family members, the film puts more emphasis on the non-speaking actions of the characters. Antoine rarely displays any sort of raw emotion in the film except for in a few key scenes. During the scene at the amusement park ride, Antoine shows true happiness and allows the audience to see a very innocent and childlike image of him that obviously does not permeate throughout the film. All of these various devices used by the film help to both enhance the story being told and also to better appeal to audiences.