Breathless (1960)

breathless poster 1960 movie
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Helped start the New-Wave revolution

Jean-Luc Godard can be tricky

Movie Info

Movie Name: Breathless

Studio: Les Films Imperia

Genre(s): Drama

Release Date(s):  March 16, 1960 (France)/February 7, 1961 (US)

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

breathless paris jean paul belmondo jean seberg

You want me to be your moll?

Michel Poiccard (Jean-Paul Belmondo) lives a fast and dangerous life.  When he steals a car to head to Paris, he shoots a motorcycle officer and finds himself the target of a countrywide search.  In Paris, Michel hopes to just blend in and get the money he is owed.  He spends his days with his American girlfriend Patricia Franchini (Jean Seberg).  Patricia is a budding journalist and questions where her relationship with Michel is going…but fate may soon force the issue.

Directed by Jean-Luc Godard, Breathless (À bout de souffle aka Out of Breath) is a French New Wave film.  Based on a newspaper story read by Francois Truffaut about a criminal named Michel Portail and his girlfriend Beverly Lynette, Breathless is cited as one of the starting points of the French New-Wave cinema.  The film is often on “Best Of” lists, and the Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the movie (Criterion #408).

Jean-Luc Godard is really, really tricky and is an acquired tasted.  I struggle with him a bit more than some other similar directors in his period.  In the New Wave style, it is like there are almost no rules and that is both the genius and distraction of the period.  Breathless is a more attainable Godard films, but still demonstrates what is frustrating and great about him.

breathless jean paul belmondo jean seberg

I’m not really that into “reading” and “poetry”…can we have sex again?

The film is kind of a hybrid crime-drama.  The shooting of the cop feels almost incidental at points and Poiccard’s “hiding out” doesn’t feel so hidden.  It is easy to forget “pre-internet” and cameras everywhere how difficult it could be to capture criminals, but the criminal aspect of the story feels like it takes a back-seat to the relationship story.

The movie’s relationship between Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg is what makes the film.  The acting isn’t always the best, but it fits the film.  In general, you are supposed to like the characters, but I see Poiccard as a threat to Franchini’s future and safety.  They are also a mismatch (which is probably why it works).  Franchini is more free spirited and open minded to a fault while Poiccard is more of a working class, down-to-earth guy that doesn’t put as much value in arts and society…she makes the right decision in the end, but it feels like she does it in the wrong way.

breathless jean seberg

Here’s a woman with a tragic story

What is striking about the movie is the rag-tag visuals.  The movie is loaded with jump cuts (intentionally) and Godard simply picked the best takes of multiple takes.  It is obvious at points that they shot the film in a rather guerilla style since it doesn’t appear that they shut anything down while shooting scenes like the two walking down the street (they have gawkers).  Seeing this in 1960, I can imagine that a lot of other filmmakers said “you can’t do that” in regards to how the film is put together…and he did.

If a person watched this movie, and said “I hate it”, I can respect that.  I watched the movie and though “that was interesting” more so that feeling in love with the movie.  I do like the process and what the film did.  Much of the French New Wave films just broke standards that had been built up over the years.  This helped result in a new techniques and styles to be applied to other films and made film richer as a result.  Breathless is a great first feature length film for Godard and shows his potential for changing up the style.  Godard followed Breathless with A Woman Is a Woman in 1961.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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