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Breathless (1960) Poster

(1960)

Trivia

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According to Jean-Pierre Melville, Godard asked him for consultation during the post-production stage because the first edit was too long for distribution. Melville suggested Godard remove all scenes that slowed down the action (his own turn as novelist Parvulesco included). But instead of excluding entire scenes, Godard cut little bits from here and there. This led to the "jump cut" technique this movie introduced. Melville declared the result to be excellent.
To give a more detached, spontaneous quality, Jean-Luc Godard fed the actors their lines as scenes were being filmed.
Director Jean-Luc Godard couldn't afford a dolly, so he pushed the cinematographer around in a wheelchair through many scenes of the film. He got the idea from Jean-Pierre Melville, who had used the same low-budget technique in Bob le Flambeur (1956) and Le Silence de la Mer (1949).
Despite reports to the contrary, Jean-Luc Godard did not shoot the film without a script; however, he did not have a finished script at the beginning, instead writing scenes in the morning and filming them that day. See also Pierrot le Fou (1965).
Jean-Paul Belmondo was very surprised by the warm reception the film received. Immediately after production he was convinced it was so bad that he thought the film would never be released.
Parvulesco the Writer, the subject of the press interview, is played by Jean-Pierre Melville, "Godfather of the New Wave." There is a reference to Melville's film, Bob le Flambeur (1956), in "Breathless" when Poiccard asks Tomatchoff how to cash the check he gives him. Tomatchoff responds, "Try Bob Montagne," who is the title character in the Melville film. Poiccard replies, "But he's in jail."
According to Raoul Coutard, some sleight of hand was involved in getting a permit to shoot on the streets of Paris. A complete script was needed to obtain the permit, so Jean-Luc Godard had an assistant type up a mock script for a film that would never be shot.
Aside from the film's title, the distribution visa number, and the dedication to Monogram Pictures, there are no other credits or titles on this film. The entire cast and crew is uncredited.
Jean-Luc Godard and Raoul Coutard found a way to shoot at night without additional lighting by using high-speed (400 ASA) film meant for still photography. Developing it in a special chemical bath doubled the sensitivity without becoming too grainy. Using that film, however, wouldn't have been possible with most movie cameras because the sprocket holes on photo film are different than those on movie film. But it worked with the Cameflex cameras they were using on this production because the claws on those cameras, which pull the film through, only touch the edge of the perforation rather than going all the way through it, eliminating the need for a precise match.
The character of Michel Poiccard uses the name Laszlo Kovacs as an alias. It is often wrongly assumed this was an homage to the cinematographer of the same name: the film was made long before Kovacs established himself in the movie industry. It was actually a reference to the character played by Jean-Paul Belmondo in Claude Chabrol's Leda (1959), earlier the same year.
Although the usual method was to shoot the footage with synchronized sound, Jean-Luc Godard would call out to the actors the lines he wanted them to say (generally just written by him, so they had never seen the dialogue prior to shooting) and they would repeat them. Also, the handheld camera they used was so noisy there was no way to record sound on the spot. The lines of dialogue were dubbed later in post-production.
One day, Jean-Luc Godard called at 8 in the morning to say he was sick from eating some bad food and couldn't work. He had someone on the crew call producer Georges de Beauregard and tell him. Although according to Coutard, it was not a big deal, since cast and crew totaled only about seven or eight people, Beauregard was furious. A short time later, he went to have a drink and saw Godard sitting at the same café having breakfast. Coutard said they got into a fistfight and reporters from Paris Match had to pull them apart.
Having made her first few pictures in the classical Hollywood system, Jean Seberg was rattled by Jean-Luc Godard's shooting methods, and there was much tension between them. They also clashed over her character and performance, notably in the scene near the end when Patricia returns to the apartment to tell Michel she has informed on him to the police. According to Raoul Coutard, she and Godard were "at each other's throats" by this point. She wanted to do the scene in an emotional frenzy, whereas he wanted her totally calm and cool. He finally gave in and shot the scene her way, but when it came time to dub it in post, she realized he had been right, so she spoke her lines very low key, which doesn't always match her expressions on screen. Pierre Rissient later said he didn't think Seberg knew what was happening throughout the production and had no idea what kind of film this would be, so she was likely pleasantly surprised at the final product and the success it achieved.
On the eve of production, Jean-Luc Godard wrote to producer Georges de Beauregard: "The poker game's about to begin. I hope to rake in a heap of dough. I want to thank you for trusting me and apologize in advance for many bad moods over the next months. ... I'm terrified and nervous."
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Raoul Coutard later said because his background was in photojournalism he already knew how to shoot quickly and efficiently. "I had no reputation and nothing to lose. I wanted to see what would happen."
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A tiny room in the Hotel de Suede was used as the room where Patricia lived. It was so small there was only about eight inches of floor space around the bed. Jean-Luc Godard, Raoul Coutard, and the actors all had to cram into the space, with the focus puller standing on the bed and the script supervisor watching through the door. "It was a relief not to have lights," Coutard later said.
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Jean-Luc Godard originally planned to use student cameraman Michel Latouche, who shot his shorts Charlotte and Her Boyfriend (1960) and All the Boys Are Called Patrick (1959), but he wasn't acceptable to the French unions. Producer Georges de Beauregard decided the right person for the job would be Raoul Coutard, whose first three film jobs, done just prior to Breathless, were on Beauregard productions.
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Although listed as technical adviser, Claude Chabrol says he was never on set for a single minute. François Truffaut, despite his assurances to Georges de Beauregard, was also not involved in the production at all
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This film is dedicated to Monogram Pictures.
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Jean-Luc Godard's first major motion picture.
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Jean-Luc Godard had met Jean Seberg through her then-husband, director François Moreuil, and thought she would be someone who could give the film more commercial appeal, having made high-profile appearances in some Hollywood productions, but still be willing to work on a low-budget feature since her American career did not live up to the initial expectations.
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According to Pierre Rissient all the locations and what hours to shoot were decided up front, despite the lack of a script.
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Jean-Pierre Melville's cameo was originally written for Roberto Rossellini.
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The song playing when Michel goes to visit the first girl in Paris is "Pity Pity" by Paul Anka (released in 1959).
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When Patricia and Michel are on the bed, and she is holding the Teddy Bear, the book Michel is reading is 'Photographing The Female Figure' by Bunny Yeager, from 1957. The close-up shots do not come from this book, though; it appears another book was used for these shots.
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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.
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Voted as the 13th greatest film of all time in Sight & Sound's 2012 critic's poll.
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Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
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Much was made at the time of release of Jean-Luc Godard's innovative use of jumpcuts. Actually these were an afterthought. The finished film was 30 minutes too long and rather than cut specific scenes, Godard decided to cut from within each scene, thus creating the jagged style of the film.
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To keep the production light and nimble, Jean-Luc Godard insisted on natural lighting and that the actors did not wear make-up.
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Jean Seberg largely felt the same way as Jean-Paul Belmondo that the film was incredibly disorganized and was highly doubtful about the film's commercial viability.
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Jean Seberg's salary took up 1/6th of the production budget.
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Breathless (1960) was released around the same time as François Truffaut's The 400 Blows (1959) and Alain Resnais' Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959), thus establishing what came to be known as the French nouvelle vague (new wave).
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No permission was ever granted for any of the exterior filming.
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At one point, Patricia mentions that she's scared of growing old. With hindsight, this comment is deeply ironic as Jean Seberg committed suicide at the age of 40.
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Was chosen by Entertainment Weekly magazine as one of the "100 New Classics ranking as #74 in the June 20, 2008 issue. The issue ranked the greatest movies of the previous 25 years.
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Jean-Luc Godard would write the script in the morning of each day of filming without the assistance of the script supervisor. He would write his notes into an exercise book which he would allow only the actors to see.
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Patricia's iconic dress was purchased off the shelf at the budget fashion chain Prisunic (the French equivalent of Target).
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The inspiration for the story was a newspaper article that François Truffaut read. It was about a small time criminal called Michel Portail and his American girlfriend. In 1952, Portail stole a car to visit his sick mother in Le Havre in the north of France but ended up killing a motorcycle cop.
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The original script treatment came from François Truffaut and Claude Chabrol but ultimately neither could agree on a proper story structure. Jean-Luc Godard was still very keen on the treatment (which would form the basis of his debut feature). He was working as a press agent at 20th Century Fox at the time when he met producer Georges de Beauregard and told him that his latest film was shit. De Beauregard was suitably impressed with his forthrightness that he hired Godard to work on the script for his next film "Pecheur d'Islande". After six weeks, Godard had had enough of the screenplay and suggested to de Beauregard that he should make Breathless (1960) instead. Chabrol and Truffaut agreed to give Godard their film treatment which was duly passed on to de Beauregard under the proviso that Godard be allowed to direct it (Truffaut and Chabrol had become established names at this stage).
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Included in the Toronto International Film Festival's Essential 100, movies every cinephile should see.
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Spoilers 

The trivia item below may give away important plot points.

Jean-Luc Godard: Towards the end of the movie, the bystander (wearing sunglasses and reading the paper) who recognizes Michel and runs off to presumably tell the police.

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