THE DVD SHELF: "Inside Llewyn Davis," "Breathless" and "Boardwalk"

By Steven Suskin
16 Mar 2014

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Shot on location and on the move — much of it seems to have been filmed at will, without advance preparations or permissions — we get a Paris which is very much alive. In an early scene, the hero (a stunning Jean-Paul Belmondo) finds a revolver in the Cadillac he has just stolen and arbitrarily uses it to shoot a policeman. This typifies the film, both in plot and composition; in another scene, he jumps out of a taxi, runs to the sidewalk, lifts the skirt of a passerby, then jumps back into the cab. Arbitrary, but strangely right for the new (wave) world of "Breathless." Belmondo went on to a long and successful career, but the sight of him staring at himself in the mirror and rubbing his lips will remain with you, as will Jean Seberg, as a young American peddling the international edition of the New York Herald Tribune along the boulevards. The 21-year old Seberg, in her striped shirt and sunglasses, is quite something; she would soon be mixed up with the F.B.I and the blacklist, and would die an apparent suicide in 1979. She would also be celebrated posthumously in her own musical, like Evita. The Marvin Hamlisch/Peter Hall Jean Seberg, though, was a quick flop when produced by the Royal National Theatre in 1983.

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Finally, we have one of those more-or-less disappeared films that turn up from time to time called "Boardwalk" [MVD Visual]. The time: 1979. The place: Coney Island. The plot: An elderly couple fights for survival against toughs taking over their run-down neighborhood. What makes this of more than passing interest is the presence of Ruth Gordon and Lee Strasberg in the leading roles. Eighty-two year old stage veteran Gordon had received a late-in-life Oscar 11 years earlier, for "Rosemary's Baby;" seventy-eight-year old Strasberg, director of the Actor's Studio, had suddenly become a sought-after character man with his Oscar-nominated appearance five years earlier in "The Godfather Part II." Thus, there was — and remains — a reason for watching this film from director/writer Stephen Verona. Janet Leigh, of "Psycho," costars. The cast also includes former stage and screen star Lillian Roth, whose 1954 autobiography about her battle with alcoholism was filmed as "I'll Cry Tomorrow" and who made two Broadway comebacks in I Can Get It for You Wholesale and 70, Girls, 70.



(Steven Suskin is author of "Show Tunes", "The Sound of Broadway Music: A Book of Orchestrators and Orchestrations," "Second Act Trouble," the "Broadway Yearbook" series and the "Opening Night on Broadway" books. He also writes the Aisle View blog at The Huffington Post. He can be reached at ssuskin@aol.com.)