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.
In Breathless, a petty criminal and bold lover, Michel, is chased and hunted by the Police. As he manages to duck, dodge, and hide under their constant watch, he plots to make his get-way to Italy. His situation gets worsened by the fact that he's just fallen in love with a beautiful young American girl, Patricia, who's determined to be her own woman and find a career in Paris, where the Police are hot on Michel's tail. He'll have to steal her away, and win over her affections, before he's caught on the wrong side of the law.
Bold, daring, and highly creative. Breathless looks as though it could have been made yesterday, now; more than 50 some-odd years after it's initial wide-release. To imagine what it must have been like when it opened in cinemas... It must have been like a UFO sighting in western Kansas... or... It must have been Marty McFly doing Chuck Barry at the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance in Back to the Future. Don't you GET IT? Jean Luc-Goddard time traveled audiences to a future of movie making that was as fresh, and new, and exciting as we've ever managed to make it. Now, certainly, it's not the greatest film ever made. There's a time and a place for such a film, and it wasn't in France in the late 1950's. But it DID manage to pave an extremely large highway in which all Directors and auteur's of the art-form could have the freedom to do things the way they wanted. Freedom to break away from the dogma of the Hollywood industry- that had dominated movie making for nearly 30 years. All of that just plain ended with about 90,000 dollars or Euro or whatever and in just four weeks that it took to shoot! The results speak for themselves. And for a History lesson on cinema and a just damn good time, I encourage you to see Jean Luc- Goddard's "Breathless" yourself, and see what you make of it. Ooh La La.
But what I really, /really/ like about this film is how prescient Godard was with what his audience wanted to see. Not knowing anything about what was going to happen, it is as if he could predict what you wanted to see before he actually showed it to you. You see a quirky young woman selling papers, and you wish you could see her make love...and she does! The constant refrain makes watching this film somewhat hypnotic. You see it all, but you see it all in about as easy a fashion as can be expected.