À bout de souffle
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FAQ for
Breathless (1960) More at IMDbPro »À bout de souffle (original title)

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It is widely held that Michel is only an "acting thug", or basically an imitation modeled after the thugs portrayed in the noir films of the 1930s by the likes of Humphrey Bogart.

In the Rutgers publication about this movie, it said that Humphrey Bogart had a natural tick that consisted of him running his thumb over his lips. This action doesn't come from any particular movie or role, but from Bogart himself. In this context, Godard uses the thumb/lip rub as an acknowledgment of the iconography of Bogart and the hard-boiled gangster noir associated with him.

In the subtitles of the Fox Lorber edition DVD, Michel calls the three faces, "playing sour apples".

In the continuity script published by Rutgers, it is translated as, to "make a face".

By making these faces, Michel is mocking her for being dramatic, basically saying "You complain too much", or "Don't act so sad". The phrase "playing sour apples" seems to imply that she is only pretending to be sad, or trying to force herself to be sad. When he makes the faces as he dies, it could be seen as his way of forgiving her and telling her not to be sad; sort of a farewell, "keep your chin up", kind of thing.

SPOILERS!

The final dialogue of the film is as follows:

---

Michel: Ch'uis vraiment dgueulasse.

Patricia: Qu'est-ce qu'il a dit?

Vital: Il a dit que vous tes vraiment une dgueulasse.

Patricia: Qu'est-ce que c'est, "dgueulasse"?

---

Or, roughly,

---

Michel: You're a real louse...

Patricia: What did he say?

Vital: He said that you're a louse.

Patricia: What does "louse" mean?

-

The final dialogue of the film is as follows:

---

Michel: Ch'uis vraiment dgueulasse.

Patricia: Qu'est-ce qu'il a dit?

Vital: Il a dit que vous tes vraiment une dgueulasse.

Patricia: Qu'est-ce que c'est, "dgueulasse"?

---

Or, roughly,

---

Michel: I'm really disgusting.

Patricia: What did he say?

Vital: He said that you're a really disgusting person.

Patricia: What does "disgusting" mean?

---

1) Ch'uis

Michel's first word "ch'uis" is slurred, giving rise to confusion not only in the ensuing dialogue but also among transcribers and and translators of the film. It has been widely understood as "c'est" (it is), and taken to mean something like "life is" or "death is." A jury of French speakers should be convened to confirm that what Belmondo actually says is "ch'uis" (= "je suis," I am). Till then you can listen and judge for yourself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bfr-qUXjl80.

That disgust with himself is the appropriate and poignant sentiment here, not least because he's made all the wrong moves and gotten himself killed for love (epitomized by the three silly faces), stands as further proof.

2) dgueulasse and une dgueulasse

It has been suggested that "dgueulasse" is stronger than "disgusting," and the alternative "makes me want to puke" appears in one set of subtitles. Another nuance in the French is that Vital switches from the adjective "dgueulasse" to the noun "une dgueulasse," which is impossible to do with "disgusting." "Une dgueulasse" is more like "a scumbag," but of course switching words in English doesn't work, since this word is the specific point of confusion for Patricia. At least one set of subtitles uses "scumbag" in all three places.

3) Vital's interpretation

Whether Vital really hears "T'es" (you are) in the slurred "Ch'uis," or deliberately turns the insult on Patricia, is of course a matter of interpretation. Is it his low regard for the girl, evident in their earlier encounter at the Herald-Tribune and consistent with a general misogynist disposition in the film, that causes him to hear what he hears?

4) Qu'est-ce c'est?

This has been Patricia's response to several bits of slang lobbed at her throughout the film. Here the knowing gaze into the camera suggests that she only pretends not to understand.

-------

Various translations:

From the YouTube montage (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bfr-qUXjl80):

---

Michel: You are... really...

Patricia: What did he say?

Vital: He said you are really "a little bitch"

Patricia: "A little what?" I don't understand...

--- (This I think is from the earliest English-language film release. It was the version shown at the Film Forum in New York on 31 Aug 2008.)

---

Michel: It's a real scumbag

Patricia: What did he say?

Vital: He said: "You're a real scumbag"

Patricia: What's a scumbag?

--- (This is probably the Fox Lorber DVD. See below.)

---

Michel: Makes me want to puke.

Patricia: What did he say?

Vital: He said you make him want to puke.

Patricia: What's that mean, "puke"?

--- (Origin unknown)

The following were included in an earlier version of this FAQ:

--- The Rutgers publication:

Michel: That's really disgusting.

Patricia: What did he say?

Vital: He said, "You are really a bitch."

Patricia: What is "degueulasse"?

---

--- English titles for the Fox Lorber edition DVD:

Michel: It's really a scumbag.

Patricia: What did he say?

Vital: He said, "You're a scumbag".

Patricia: What's a scumbag?

--- (Probably the same as the second YouTube version above, I assume the differences are typos.)

The soundtrack was done by Martial Solal, who collaborated with Godard only this one time in his career. It is available to buy on Amazon.com.

http://www.amazon.com/Bout-Souffle-Martial-Solal/dp/B000069LE7/ref=pd_bbs_sr_3?ie=UTF8&s=music&qid=1204492107&sr=8-3

r73731


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