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.
During the Algerian war for independence from France, a young Frenchman living in Geneva who belongs to a right-wing terrorist group and a young woman who belongs to a left-wing terrorist ... See full summary »
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 wanted Patricia to rifle through the dying Belmondo's pockets, but Jean Seberg refused to play the scene that way. Instead it ends with a bit of dialogue whose translation is still sometimes disputed (with Seberg's Patricia asking what "dégueulasse" [disgusting] means and being told by the detective a different version of what Michel likely intended) followed by an iconic close-up of her making the Humphrey Bogart lip-rubbing gesture he uses throughout the film, then turning away from the camera. See more »
When Patricia (Jean Seberg) is going up the escalator, a plant beside it can be seen moving as if knocked by the cameraman going up in front of her. See more »
I don't blame those who state that they do not "understand" the superlatives surrounding Jean-Luc Godard's 1960 masterpiece, Breathless. It's primarily because to appreciate Breathless, one has to view the movie from a historical context, which also requires studying of not only the French New Wave, but film theories as a whole, and the lives of those apart of the New Wave. Breathless accomplished many things unprecedented prior (many completely unprecedented, but some things are not-so-much).
Roger Ebert put it best when he said that just as film fanatics may now stand outside a movie theatre waiting for the next Quentin Tarantino movie to be released, film enthusiasts were doing so for Godard in the 1960s. He was a revolutionary, which is why MovieMaker magazine called him the 4th most influential director of ALL-TIME (only behind Welles, Griffith, and Hitchcock)! What did Godard do different? Breathless is all style, simple as that. The story line is interesting, yes, but is Godard's aesthetics, production modes, subject matters, and storytelling methods that are key. First of all, the whole movie was shot on a hand-held camera, just like most all New Wave pictures. It was, however, only shot by two people (Godard and his cinematographer, Rouald) on a budget that did not top $50,000, a mere fraction of what most pictures cost at the time (another facet of the New Wave). It was shot completely on location in Paris, and utilized new film-making techniques that would be used by film-making students for decades to come (such as putting the camera in a mail cart on the Champs Elysees and following Belmondo and Seberg). Note Godard's use of American cinema influence, and how the montage art of the 1950s impacted this aesthetic.
(A brief New Wave lesson: Most New Wave directors were displeased with the "tradition of quality," or the older generation directors who, as Truffaut put it, made the "twelve or so" pictures per year that represented France at Venice and Cannes. Most of these pictures classic or modern literary adaptations, completely stagnant in artistic quality with rehashed subject matters based on historical periods. New Wave directors supported NEW tales of modern Parisian life, primarily, and were sick of the themes found in the tradition of quality films.) The storytelling methods in Breathless are perhaps the most fascinating part of the film. The jump cuts may seem lame, but one must again view them from a historical context: it had never been done before. This is exactly why Breathless is important -- practically every technique was revolutionary. They are so submerged into film-making practices now that Breathless seems typical. Yet at the time, it was, as I said prior, unprecedented.
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