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Breathless (1960)

À bout de souffle (original title)
Not Rated | | Crime , Drama | 7 February 1961 (USA)
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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.

Director:

Jean-Luc Godard

Writer:

François Truffaut (original scenario)
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Popularity
3,376 ( 591)
Nominated for 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 4 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Jean Seberg ... Patricia Franchini
Jean-Paul Belmondo ... Michel Poiccard / Laszlo Kovacs
Daniel Boulanger Daniel Boulanger ... Police Inspector Vital
Henri-Jacques Huet Henri-Jacques Huet ... Antonio Berrutti
Roger Hanin ... Carl Zubart
Van Doude ... Himself
Claude Mansard Claude Mansard ... Claudius Mansard
Liliane Dreyfus Liliane Dreyfus ... Liliane / Minouche (as Liliane David)
Michel Fabre Michel Fabre ... Police Inspector #2
Jean-Pierre Melville ... Parvulesco the Writer
Jean-Luc Godard ... The Snitch
Richard Balducci Richard Balducci ... Tolmatchoff
André S. Labarthe André S. Labarthe ... Journalist at Orly
François Moreuil François Moreuil ... Journalist at Orly
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Jacques Lourcelles Jacques Lourcelles ... (as Raymond Ravanbaz)
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Storyline

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 duke1029

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

The French Film The French Talk About - The Most See more »

Genres:

Crime | Drama

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

France

Language:

French | English

Release Date:

7 February 1961 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Breathless See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

FRF 400,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$3,222, 23 April 2000, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$336,705, 31 October 2010
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

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. See more »

Goofs

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 »

Quotes

[first lines]
Michel Poiccard: After all, I'm an asshole. After all, yes, I've got to. I've got to!
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Les échos du cinéma: Episode #1.7 (1961) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Too cool for (film) school
17 February 2007 | by marissas75See all my reviews

Together with François Truffaut's "The 400 Blows" (one of my favorites), Jean-Luc Godard's "Breathless" is considered the defining, instigating film of the French New Wave. It's more ironic and detached, less emotionally accessible than "The 400 Blows," and its technical innovations like jump cuts are perhaps even more surprising. For these reasons, I found "Breathless" easier to admire than to love—though by the end I grew to enjoy its too-cool- for-(film)-school tone.

Ironically, the pace of this movie isn't "breathless" at all. It begins abruptly and takes a while to get going: Michel (Jean-Paul Belmondo), a character we barely know, drives a stolen car around, talks at the camera, and shoots a police officer who has tried to pull him over. Then he goes to Paris and tries to borrow money from some friends, while the police-shooting plot goes undeveloped. I only became fully engaged with the introduction of Patricia (Jean Seberg), a young American who sells newspapers on the Champs-Elysees. The relationship between Michel and Patricia is the heart of the film, especially a 25-minute-long scene in Patricia's apartment where the characters smoke, flirt, and laze around in bed, though nothing really happens. That's where I really started to admire "Breathless," because I was so captivated by a scene that, on paper, doesn't sound all that captivating.

Eventually the police catch onto Michel and launch a manhunt, but this doesn't really ratchet up the suspense. Instead, Michel is (or at least, Michel acts) aimless and nonchalant about the whole thing—this is not a typical "man on the run" movie. The cool jazz score adds to the hip, laid-back tone.

Since I didn't care for the movie too much until the scenes between Michel and Patricia, I believe a lot of the credit for the film's success has to go to the charismatic performances of Belmondo and Seberg. Belmondo, with a perpetual cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth, is the archetypal cocky criminal who models himself after Humphrey Bogart (there's a great scene where he sees some Bogart photos and gets a vulnerable look in his eyes, as though saying "I'll never be as cool as this"). Seberg plays Patricia as a confused girl who is delighted by the attention she gets as an American in France.

It's easy to see why "Breathless" was so influential—the jump cuts, the ragged style perfectly match this story about amoral, aimless youth. Definitely a movie that expanded the range of stories the cinema can tell, and perhaps a major precursor to youth-oriented '60s culture. Nearly fifty years later, it still seems "hip," and still challenges our expectations of how movies should behave.


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