Stealing a Porsche 356 and far more -- Richard Gere and "Breathless," 1983

The girl is far more important than the machine in the 1983 remake of Jean-Luc Goddard's nouvelle vague classic A bout de Soufflé, Breathless. [1] The film starred a young Richard Gere as drifter Jesse Lujack, who after a brief Las Vegas fling, becomes obsessed with a UCLA exchange student from France by the name of Monica, played by Valerie Kaprisky. The film begins with Jesse, a high-energy punk "who rolls the dice too much," uses a screwdriver and two blades to steal a Porsche 356A coupe in front of a Las Vegas casino. He comes alive while driving and listening to Jerry Lee Lewis ("You Leave Me Breathless"), but his trip to LA is interrupted by a police stop and rather unintentional murder. On the run and obsessed with taking Monica with him to Mexico, Lujack steals a succession of vehicles while eluding police, including a pink MGB, a 1957 Thunderbird, a Ghetto Buick , an old truck, and finally a 1959 Cadillac Eldorado convertible.

In every case as Jesse gets behind the wheel he gains in energy as he drives, as mobility brings with it self-realization. But as a frustrated male who models his psyche after the comic book character the Silver Surfer, Jesse reflects a shallowness, having no long term future and projecting a tragic end. Yet, at times imagining he himself as the Silver Surfer, once an ordinary man from a distant plant. Forced to serve Galactus, a planet-eating God, the comic book hero preserves his world and the woman he loves from destruction. Afterward, endowed with powers of infinite movement by Galactus, he searched the galaxy for planets to feed his master, until his encounter with Earth forced him to betray Galactus and thereby redeem himself. But in the end the Silver Surfer, and indeed Jesse, is left trapped on the planet he saved. Forced with the decision to surrender or pick up a gun and die at the hands of police, he chooses the latter, perhaps realizing that Monica and Mexico are forever out of reach.
[1] Breathless, 1983, Dir. James McBride.


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