Breathless & La Dolce Vita

Godard and Fellini were not sympathetic toward each other's work, a split that persists to this day in the attitudes of many cinephiles. Godard saw Fellini as an exponent of the "tradition of quality", the "well-made film", which he, Godard, detested. Fellini saw Godard as an exponent of the not-so-well-made film.

Whatever Breathless and La Dolce Vita represent in the way of technique and theory, as a quick study they have a lot in common: A hip young man of disreputable occupation tries to make a place for himself in the big city. Each of these characters (Jean-Paul Belmondo in Paris, Marcello Mastroianni in Rome) is played by an actor who goes on to become an international icon.

For me these movies, both released in 1960, evoke an era I like the look of, and they never seem dated.

Each film had an effect on the way I edited my surroundings. At any given moment, there's more information - visual, aural, tactile, olfactory, gustative - than we can handle. Our brains work hard to narrow our field of attention so that we attach a high priority to things like the bus approaching on the street we're about to cross. Our attention also goes toward things that have an aesthetic appeal for us or things that disgust us. There's a fascination factor at work along with the practical.

When I walked out of each of these movies, I was aware that my attention was, to some extent, still being directed by Godard or Fellini. The street looked like a scene from the movie; and, more importantly, it felt like a scene from the movie.

Fortunately, I haven't spent my subsequent life living in someone else's show - for one thing, it would increase the odds that, at a critical moment, I'll not notice the bus referenced in paragraph four - but there are still times when I realize that the Godard filter is on, or the Fellini filter is on.

That's just one of the games this crazed art plays with us.