Released in 1960, Breathless (or À bout de souffle in its native French), is director Jean-Luc Godard’s debut feature film and helped usher in the French New Wave. It stars Jean-Paul Belmondo as Michel, a young man who thinks himself to be a ‘Bogart’ type gangster and criminal who soon finds himself on the run from the police after stealing a car and then shooting and killing a policeman who followed him.
Michel then travels to Paris where he wants another criminal acquaintance of his who owes him money with which he plans on fleeing to Rome. While on his way to Paris even after his crimes you see his careless, sleazy personality when he passes a couple of female hitchhikers, “I’ll charge a kiss per mile”
On reaching Paris he finds he cannot find Antonio his criminal friend so decides to attempt to reconnect with a woman from his past while he lies low from the ever closing in police.
Jean Seberg plays the American journalist, Patricia. that Michel says he has fallen in love with and returns to her apartment to find him there after stealing a key to her door. She allows him to hide out with her, where you get some incredible long, almost seemingly one take scenes of the two in her room just talking and interacting, the whole way you don’t really get to know what they want from each other, Patricia more so. The Direction here and throughout the film is fantastic, with Godard just letting the camera roll allowing for the chemistry from Belmondo and Seberg to really shine through these scenes.
As he finally finds Antonio Patricia is visited by the inspector that is searching for Michel and she denies that she has seen him, but soon starts to wrestle with her feelings for Michel after revealing she may be pregnant, and must then decide whether to tell the police his whereabouts or if she wants to be with him.
For his first feature I don’t think Godard could have done much better, his direction being almost faultless. Along with the cinematography by Raoul Coutard and a jazzy, catchy score by Martial Solal it really makes you want to be there in 60’s Paris with these characters. The acting is also flawless considering for the most part it is just those two characters who play off each other fantastically. I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed this film given how it is my first French New Wave film, I was never bored the whole way through, even the scenes of just Michel and Patricia in her apartment are gripping, I will definitely be re-watching this and getting more and more from it each time. I would thoroughly recommend this to anyone as a must see cinema classic.
Crime, Drama | France, 1960 | PG | Blu-ray, DVD, Digital, 4K UHD | 9th November 2020 (UK) | Studiocanal | Dir.Jean-Luc Godard | Jean Seberg, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Daniel Boulanger
NEW Still not…Breathless,
Room 12, Hotel de Suede,
Introduction with Jefferson Hack,
Film Presentation by Colin MacCabe,
Tempo – Godard Episode