The story of a petty criminal who murders a police officer in a moment of rage & finds himself on the run. Inspired by Bogart's Hard-Edge Character he tries to woo a naive Young American Woman.
Filled with new camera techniques & clever flowing natural dialogue this was so far away from the Hollywood Formula. A breakthrough film of Jean Luc-Godard & fantastic French Film.
Jean Seaberg is excellent, with the nicest accent you'll ever hear, as are the supporting cast, all rounded stereotypes. But the leading man outshines all the others. A virtuoso display from Jean-Paul Belmondo as Michel Poiccard makes the viewer swoon and scorn in equal measures. He doesn't make it easy for us to empathize with him, yet we still do, and in doing, we feel we have earned something.
Revolutionary. Brilliant. Oh so pretty.
When this film was originally released, it was very revolutionary. It is also, arguably the film which started the "French New Wave" movement. It is very influential, and it has had a huge impact on cinema. I had a couple issues with it, but overall, it was a pretty impressive film, and I'm glad I watched it.
After a small time car thief named Michel Poiccard shoots and kills a policeman, he reunites with a love interest named Patricia Franchini as he attempts to convince her to run away with him to Italy, all while trying to avoid the cops.
This is arguably one of, if not the most influential movie of all time. It has made many contributions to cinema that have been used again and again in other movies. When it was originally shot, the filmmakers attempted to film it differently than how most films were shot. They used real locations instead of man-made sets and it was filmed in mostly natural lighting. Raoul Coutard, the cinematographer of the film, said "When we were shooting Breathless, we tried to film it the way news reports were shot, i.e., with a handheld camera and natural lighting. In other words, for me it was very much like filming in the heat of battle." Also, since the cameras they used were very loud, Jean-Luc said the lines to them as he filmed it, and he edited their voices into the film later. These differences made it stand out from other films.
However, what this film is perhaps mostly known for is its use of jump-cuts or discontinuity editing. Jean-Luc got the idea for this in director Jean Rouch's 1958 film: "Moi, un Noir". Jean-Luc was a huge fan of that film, and it's credited as a major influence for this film. However, Jean-Luc gave his own interesting twist to this concept. Instead of jumping from one scene to another, he would cut short clips out of the middle of scenes to shorten the films running time to 90 minutes instead of just removing entire scenes altogether. This caused some of the scenes to skip from moment to moment. This gave some of the scenes in the film a jagged and fast-paced feel. Essentially, what Godard did was take an already existing cinematic technique and add his own, unique style to it to spice it up or to change it around in an appealing way.
Also, since Jean-Luc didn't have that big of a budget, being that this was his first film, he had to make use of what he had and try to find clever ways to cut down on cost. Godard had to film in locations that he already had access to, use cameras that he already had access to (the entire film was shot by using handheld cameras), and he hired people he knew to help work on the film. Often, he would film on the streets of Paris without any permits. At some parts, cinematographer Raoul Coutard would film scenes while sitting in a wheelchair as he was pushed along by crew members.
I've spent a lot of time discussing its influence, but now I'm going to talk a bit about what I think of its story.
I thought that it was really interesting how Michel was slowly able to gain Patricia's trust as the film went on. At the same time, Patricia had to decide whether or not she should stay with him or inform the cops that she knows where they can find him. As the 2 made their way through Paris, there was always a slight amount of tension since Michel's face is everywhere in papers. Also, people often happened to be reading them when he would be going by. There are also a few scenes in which people recognized him, and he had to escape the area quickly.
However, there are 2 flaws (mostly minor ones) that I had with its story.
The first one is a minor complaint towards its intro. I felt like it rushed the entire intro scene when he steals the car, murders the policeman, and meets up with Patricia. It seemed very fast-paced to a point where I could hardly keep up with it. I wished for it to slow down a bit to an enjoyable pace. I was a bit worried that the entire film would be like that. Fortunately, it wasn't, but my complaint here does not vanish despite this.
My second issue with the film is not as minor as the first one, but it bugged me a little bit more. This complaint is about the predictability of the films ending. After Patricia informed Michel that she did tell the cops where he lived, and that they were coming for him, it became clear to me what was going to happen next, and I was instantly able to figure out how it would end. It became obvious which direction the movie was going to head in next. I wished that they revealed it in a less obvious way than that. For example, they could've revealed it right when they were about to drive away, and the cops could show up right after that revelation. My issue might still exist in a few remnants, but it wouldn't be nearly as glaring.
In conclusion, I really liked this film, and I can respect it for its huge influence on cinema history. It did many things different from most other films, and it showed that you don't have to follow any rules when writing films. I did have a couple issues with its intro and outro, but other than that, I liked everything else about the film. I can understand why it would be brought up on "best movies ever made" lists and I'd probably add it too if I made one. It has had a huge impact on cinema history, and I can respect it for what it's done.
Clocking in at a mere 90 minutes, Breathless is a film that lives up to its name by keeping a brisk, kinetic pace, and keeping things simple and stripped down to the bare bones. It's plot is minimalist, with a lackadaisical thief named Michel Poiccard (Jean-Paul Belmondo), who, after stealing a car, manages to shoot a police officer, sparking a manhunt. Determined not to go to jail, he manages to hook up with his ex-girlfriend, an American student and aspiring journalist, Patricia (Jean Seberg), who seems to treat him with a stand-off aloofness. The film then follows his attempts to seduce her to run away with him to Italy, before she eventually decides to inform the police about his whereabouts. The cops arrive, and while a friend of Michel insists he take a gun, going as far as to toss it into the street for Michel to pick up, Michel refuses, seemingly viewing jail a better option. He goes to pick up the gun, only managing to get shot, stumbling several dozen meters before collapsing, dying from his wound.
Godard keeps the minimalistic, barely-there plotline moving by his innovative use of jump-cut, combined with a general sense of laid back irreverence. It's not a film that takes itself seriously, nor does it seem to feel it has any grander message. The conversations the characters have about the nature of love, and human relationships, feel oddly tongue in cheek, almost as if Godard is making fun of the trope of intense philosophical musings. His camera work is loose and unpolish, hand-held camera following everyone around, either letting the scene play out with minimal edits, or instead hopping through time moment by moment, to give the illusion of the abrupt passage of time.
The acting from Seberg and Belmondo is sedate and unpretentious. They feel real and naturalistic, and their interactions have a lazy, familial chemistry between them. It helps tie the film together, especially since there isn't much real plot to speak of, more just a sequence of loosely connected events, blended with café-hipster musings on romance and love.
And, in a way, that's how this film feels. While undoubtedly innovative and enjoyable, one can still get an undeniable sense that Godard is trying just a mite too hard too be different and to break cinematic conventions. There's always a sense that Godard brings up an thematic idea, or a motif, only to intentionally and deliberately subvert it and deconstruct it, if only for the sake of deconstructing it. It's so minimalist, it just ends up feeling like it really doesn't have anything to say, since there's so little in the way of real plot or character development.
Compare, for example, Ingmar Bergman's masterpiece, Persona, a film that is equally deconstructive and genre-busting, but with the added depth of Bergman's disturbingly intense meditation on Jungian psychology. The moments of deconstruction and fourth wall breaking (such as the film literally grinding to a halt and exploding, or the smash edits of disturbing imagery), feel like a visual interpretation of the character's psychological state, and as visual metaphor for the themes of how humans consistently put on artificial masks and personalities in order to better keep up appearances.
Meanwhile, in Breathless, Godard seems to twist and bend the cinematic medium around simply because he can, and I'm not sure how it reflects on the narrative or thematic elements, mostly because the narrative and themes are so thinly drawn.
But, nonetheless, the film is entertaining, and, thanks to the short running time and fast, hyper-caffeinated pace, doesn't feel burdensome or like a waste of time. If you approach it as a pure popcorn film that just so happened to choose to take a deconstructive route, then it's a gem. Just don't try to read subtext into it when there really isn't much there.
I suppose 3 out of 5 will suffice. Entertaining, but ultimately ephemeral.
This film has a very fast paced tempo. Few moments to catch your breath here as the car robbery and cop killing takes place as the protagnist is getting ready to flea the country with his crush at the moment, the lovely Patricia Franchini - an American journalist.
Driven by dialogue, mostly about love or money it's almost exhausting to look at since it's always combined with jump-cuts and a hand-held camera. This is as far as I know the first film that fits the style of French New Wave. It's jump cuts - also a new style brought to life by this film, is the result of the director being forced to cut down the lenght of the film, so he shortened the film by cutting out - or basicly making transitions through different takes to make it shorter. It made it more intense and gave it a fresh look. He also made parts of the film after the shooting had taken place - planning stuff during the nights after shooting scenes. Later on it stand out like a very innovative film caused by it's production and editing. One of the most influential films ever made, actually.
So, it's important to travel back in time to get why the film is so well rated. I find it hard to give it more stars "just" because it's the father of jump cuts (even if other directors have used it before) that now are used everywhere. This is a nice story, very intensely told, and lovely presented. Fast paced and with some great and unusal photography. Pluses are given for it's music too.
7.5 out of 10 phat cigarettes.
Though not his best, Godard's 'Breathless' is his most famous and discussed film. Even after 50 years, it hasn't lost its vitality; it's interpreted in so many different ways. We all know that most of these New Wave directors (formerly critics at 'Cahiers du Cinema') wanted to shift away from the style and rules of Classic Hollywood, which most of the mainstream French films had adapted over the years. Godard tries to break these conventions and tries experimenting with various aspects of the film. Firstly, he casts Jean-Paul Belmondo, with his punched nose and unconventional looks (though quite charming), and Jean Seberg in a boy-cut tomboyish role, introducing her wearing a T-shirt and selling newspapers on the street (an intriguing and memorable intro). With regard to Patricia's character, though intended or not, the film did have quite a feminist undertone (much different from the female characters portrayed at the time). Other than this, the film mainly comprises of random conversations and a meandering plot. All these elements went on to reinvent Modern Cinema.
Godard believed that most of the mainstream films tried to seduce people with their fictional reality, tried to entertain them and make them forget the worries of their daily life; he said that's how capitalist systems kept their people happy and content. He wanted to defy establishment and authority, both in terms of film and politics; though this film is not as Marxist as his later films, it's certainly quite anarchist in nature and his contempt for capitalism is clearly visible. Just like Patricia wonders, "I don't know if I'm unhappy because I'm not free, or if I'm not free because I'm unhappy." With random jump-cuts in a single scene or characters looking/talking to the camera, Godard constantly reminds the viewer that they're watching a work of fiction, thus making us watch the film in a different light, evoking a higher level of consciousness and compelling us to interpret the film's intended meaning. He wanted to stress that none of it was real, and that the director has complete control of what's being shown on screen. The film circles-in twice (in the style of film noir), once pointing to almost nothing conspicuous (to draw the attention outside of the film), and the next time when Godard himself appears in a cameo as the informer, thus ingeniously highlighting the fact that it's Godard (the director) who's controlling the plot from within and outside of the film. Even when Michel shoots the policeman, the scene is shown in such a haphazard and unusual way; the scene is as detached from the event as the protagonist, highlighting the moral jumps he takes in the situation.
Though the New Wave directors were tired of the rigid style of Classic Hollywood, they were big admirers of Film Noir. Even in this film, Godard pays homage to it in various ways, whether it's the way Michel's admires and imitates Humphrey Bogart or the random circle-ins. Michel informs his identity with the tough-guy persona of Bogart's films, and the tragedy is that even when he decides/tries to escape such a life and identity, he's still pushed along the tragic fate of characters in such crime thrillers; he's stuck within it, there's no escape. And if we analyse both our characters, we realize they have none of the usual characteristics of a film hero or anti-hero; they are quite self-obsessed, amoral, aimless, so absorbed in the world of art (Michel in cinema, Patricia in literature), yet so oblivious to the world around them. Godard tries to highlight the absurdity of life without a political, philosophical or moral commitment.
The final scene is as alluring and mysterious as the rest of the film. Whether it's the statement that's said or the gesture of tracing the lips - both being carried forward and reinterpreted by different members in its chain of action.
Overall, let me state that 'Breathless' isn't a great film by itself; it's not even close to the brilliance and emotional resonance of Truffaut's "The 400 Blows" or Resnais' "Hiroshima Mon Amour", New Wave works which released the previous year. Other than a few captivating scenes and dialogues, most of the film is dull and boring; I wonder how dragging the original two-and-a-half-hour runtime might have been like. But the film is important for two reasons - the way it experimented with the format opened up new possibilities in cinematic storytelling, and it's the kind of film which offers such interesting interpretations and opportunities for discussion with other cinephiles.