A small-time thief steals a car and impulsively murders a motorcycle policeman. Wanted by the authorities, he reunites with a hip American journalism student and attempts to persuade her to run away with him to Italy.
Michel Poiccard, an irresponsible sociopath and small-time thief, steals a car and impulsively murders the motorcycle policeman who pursues him. Now wanted by the authorities, he renews his relationship with Patricia Franchini, a hip American girl studying journalism at the Sorbonne, whom he had met in Nice a few weeks earlier. Before leaving Paris, he plans to collect a debt from an underworld acquaintance and expects her to accompany him on his planned getaway to Italy. Even with his face in the local papers and media, Poiccard seems oblivious to the dragnet that is slowly closing around him as he recklessly pursues his love of American movies and libidinous interest in the beautiful American. Written by
Jean-Luc Godard's, A Bout de Souffle is possibly the brightest star to shine from the French New Wave. The 'Nouvelle Vague' came about from a group of like minded film critics writing for the Cahiers du Cinema.
With his knowledge of classic film narrative and style Godard went out to create his own film in homage to, and also complete contradiction to, classic Hollywood film.
The plot reads almost like a crime thriller typical of the 1930-40's. A criminal on the run from the police; the distraction of a beautiful woman; the escape and eventually someones death. But it is in Godard's approach to film style and use of new technologies that the typical crime thriller was turned on its head.
In a break from classic Hollywood narrative the film opens with little equilibrium. Our protagonist's motives are unclear as he tears off to Paris leaving a woman and a dead cop in his trail. This in turn makes the ending somewhat open ended. With no sense of equilibrium to start with how can there be closure on what has happened throughout the film.
Another twist on the classic storytelling in film is the progression of plot. It is naturally assumed in classic Hollywood film, that everything the spectator sees they see for a reason. With Michel's constantly pointless phone calls to retrieve owed money the plot is not pushed along at all. The inclusion of a 25 minute digression from the plot stands to emphasise the spectators reliance on narrative structure in the watching of films. Although watching the film closely is, as always, important in following the story A Bout de Souffle requires that little bit extra to define where the plot is being progressed and where Michel or Patricia are just flattering their egos or each other.
All in all I personally think that A Bout de Souffle brought about a sense of realism not seen in Hollywood cinema before 1959 and even now. The fact that life isn't full of clues that will help us progress in say our relationships or escape from authority, but is infact full of digression; self exploration; and the confusions of love, ego and aspirations.
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