I Know Where I'm Going! (1945)
There is something about Powell and Pressburger productions that make them more complete, more fully realized, than any other motion picture. Every aspect of the duo's films; the dialogue, acting, cinematography, visual effects, sound design, et al. are of the highest caliber. There is not a weak link in the bunch. And I Know Where I'm Going! is no exception. Ostensibly the story of mismatched lovers falling for one another while stranded on the Scottish seaside, the film manages to incorporate effortless humor and harrowing action amongst the conflicted romance. It also finds time to make all-together pleasant diversions to flesh out charming secondary characters and give us a thoroughly detailed depiction of Scottish customs and traditions. The film deals with curses, prayers, and superstitions, weaving the legends of generations past with fairy tales and fantasy. The film's only flaw is that the romance central to the story is easily the weakest part of the plot. We're never given much reason to believe that Roger Livesey's dashing naval captain would fall for Wendy Hiller's spoiled socialite. This alone keeps the film from reaching the vaunted heights of other Archer productions, such as The Red Shoes and The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp. Unfortunately, it is a rather important component of an otherwise fantastic feature.
How many directors appeared on the cinematic scene so fully realized? Jean-Luc Godard's stunningly confident debut sees all of the director's revolutionary filmmaking techniques already on display. The exhilarating jagged cuts, the heretical lack of continuity, they're all front and center in Breathless. The most invigorating camerawork comes from a series of elliptical tracking shots following our leads through cavernous hallways. The plot is simple, malleable, elegant. Jean-Paul Belmondo's self described "asshole", a car-thieving cop-killer just wants to have sex with Jean Seberg's American expatriate, an aspiring writer. The film is cool, funny, and by the end, surprisingly poignant. Like Quentin Tarantino after him, Godard litters Breathless with the debris of cinema's past. Movie posters scream philosophy and girls in the street approach strangers, accosting them with film criticism. Belmondo absentmindedly rubs his lips just like his hero Humphrey Bogart tugged his ear. Godard went on to make an overflowing ashtray of masterpieces in the ensuing years, including Band of Outsiders, Contempt, and Pierrot le Fou, but his debut wholeheartedly belongs in the same breath as these fantastic features.