Breathless (1960) Poster


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To those who "don't understand"
izmatt1 December 2005
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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In's not like this in movies
rjanderson7911 December 2001
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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To become immortal, and then die
jdoan-421 January 2006
So says the novelist in response to Patricia's question, "What do you hope to attain out of life?" That response is the philosophy of the film and of every character in the film. All want to be in control of their destiny. All want to be something that they are not. None are able to do any of these things. They are all contradictions. How can you die as an immortal? How can Patricia be free and independent is so many other things determine what she can do? How can this film transcend the screen while existing on the screen? This is an amazing film to watch. Goddard fills every scene with ingenuity and energy. He puts his actors in a beautiful environment and lets them do their thing. And they do it extremely well. The actors are beautiful. Not just cosmetically, but spiritually and psychologically. I am not sure that I liked either of the two main characters. I am sure I could not keep my eyes off them. I could not take my eyes off the screen. Techniques that novices today use for no substantial purpose are utilized by Goddard to amazing effect. The greatest filmmakers are the great editors. Goddard makes the editing a character itself. It is the nervous narrator hurrying the film along. It breathlessly awaits the next scene, and leads us to do the same. I like the way Goddard spends prodigious time simply watching his characters. The conversation scene at the center of the film is amazingly long and drawn out, yet I did not find it boring. I found it fascinating. People are fascinating. Everyone is trying to be something. It takes tremendous talent to indulge in the minutiae of existence. A great film.
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Revolutionary. Brilliant. Oh so pretty
NykDex23 October 2001
This Movie, a triumph of the French Nouvelle Vague, marks a turning point, not only for the Director, Jean-Luc Godard, but for anyone who sees it. The plot, though intriguing, is secondary to the incredible presentation. Use of hand-held cameras and jump-cuts (where the director cuts from one angle to a shot of the same angle two seconds later, a stylistic effect that can show freneticism or boredom) were revolutionary at the time, yet can still surprise and delight today.

Jean Seaberg is excellent, with the nicest accent you'll ever hear, as are the supporting cast, all rounded stereotypes. But the leading man outshines all the others. A virtuoso display from Jean-Paul Belmondo as Michel Poiccard makes the viewer swoon and scorn in equal measures. He doesn't make it easy for us to empathize with him, yet we still do, and in doing, we feel we have earned something.

Revolutionary. Brilliant. Oh so pretty.
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French New Wave for Dummies
M T8 December 2004
This is the one that started it all kids, the daddy of post-modern cinema. MTV jump cuts, fractured soundtrack and images aplenty

Self reflexive to the point that it not only acknowledges its own existence, it revels in it.

All style and no substance is considered a bad thing today, unless its Tarantino. Well, if it wasn't for Godard, chances are there would be no QT.

All the characters and images, and dialogue and sets are constructed from all aspects of life - Michel is a Bogart collage. Patricia apes everything she sees, from her Interviewee's facial gestures to Michel's own.

Don't let all this technical mumbo fool you, I did my thesis on Godard and would happily bore the ass off you with a lecture in great detail about this film, but the fact is, it's a stormer.

Grips you by the throat and shakes the hell out of you, and it doesn't let go until the final breath.

Fantastically, artistically magnificent. If Godard wanted to make his debut picture to show how well he understood American ideals and the history of cinema, he couldn't have made a better picture.

Top stuff French guy.
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Too cool for (film) school
marissas7517 February 2007
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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"It's silly, but I love you. I wanted to see you, to see if I'd want to see you."
Galina18 June 2004
I finally did it. I finished watching À bout de souffle. I kept putting it off because I usually have problem when everybody tells me that such and such film is the epitome of its era or it breaks all the rules, starts the revolution, and reinvents the cinema. That's why, probably, I cannot like Citizen Kane - try to watch the arguably best film ever made - you will be under a lot of pressure.

Well, À bout de souffle does not put you under the pressure, it takes you for a ride, and you follow for 90 minutes its incredibly young characters, common crook (Jean-Paul Belmondo) and his American free-spirited girlfriend (Jean Seberg) on their journey on the streets of 1960-th Paris along with Raoul Coutard's legendary camera. I am not going to tell here how great the camera work was, how fantastic the music score and the views of Paris were - the fans of the film know that already. They also know about the beginning of French New Wave, and how it influenced the future cinema. I just want to say that the movie was made over forty years ago - the smoking was cool back then, and Belmondo made smoking look very sexy. Belmondo fascinates me in this film. I've seen him in a lot of later movies - he's always been good (I recommend Le Magnifique, 1973 and Le Professionnel,1981 ) - but in À bout de souffle he is not just good - he is embodiment of cool, his face changes its expression every moment, you can not take your eyes off him. Is it me or he does remind the very young Mick Jagger - not commonly handsome but irresistible and sexy? He and young (she was 21 at the time) Jean Seaborg made one of the best screen couples ever. My favorite scenes:

Michel drives the stolen car in the beginning of the film, and he starts to talk to us, the audience. The day is nice, the sun is shining, and the life is beautiful...

Michel and Patricia drive in the convertible. The wind plays with her short hair. We only see the back of her head and her neck. Michel tells her that he loves the girl with a beautiful neck, wrists, knees, but she is a chicken...

Patricia comes to the hotel to find Michel in her bed. They start talking about nothing and about very serious things. They smoke, she tries to find a good place for her new poster, and he wants to sleep with her. In the end of the scene, his face, he looks at her - there is love in that look...

There is more - I am sure everyone who saw it has his/her favorite scenes.
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Revolutionary but I'm still allowed to hate Godard.
Camoo8 April 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I'm a big fan of this time period in cinema, but I've never liked Godard, as much as my peers fawned over his 'daring' style in films like this and Woman is a Woman, I find his work emotion-less, obscure and subversive for obscurity and subversity's sake and bratty. I understand the intrigue, particularly if you were alive and young when this film was showing for the first time in the cinema, in his style, his breaking all common laws of cinema, but I find what his co-conspirators in his generation like Michelangelo Antonioni, Eric Rohmer, Agnes Varda and even Truffaut to be just as dramatically daring but on more subtle and affecting levels than Godard. Breathless just never hit me the way it did others, but I can appreciate how it influenced everybody down the generations. I preferred My Life to Live, in my opinion the best film Godard made...
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One of the most overrated films ever
Cosmoeticadotcom8 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
The fact that an artist writes boringly to convey boredom, or childishly to convey puerility, has no effect on the resultant work not being boring nor puerile. Self-awareness of a flaw does not alleviate the flaw. For this to not be true intent in art would have to matter, meaning that all art would necessarily have to be accompanied by a detailed explanation of itself and its conception by the artists, which would therefore render the idea of the art as its own best explanation worthless. Naturally, this would rent the very essence of the artwork.

Yet, in recent decades there has been the reflexive notion, usually tossed about by bad artists, that intent is almost all in art, or even that it supersedes actual accomplishment. This results in defenses of bad works of art that inevitably rely on defending the art's intent, not its success in following through on that intent. This has been championed by the 'first thought, best thought' Beatniks of the 1950s, modern Postmodernist thought, and in the 1960s New Wave of French cinema. One of the leading lights of that 'movement' was Jean-Luc Godard, whose first film, Breathless (A Bout de Soufflé- literally, The End Of Breath- 1960), made him a directing superstar. While one cannot dispute the historic import of such a film, historic import has never been equivalent to artistic excellence, and Breathless is a horribly dated film. Yet, even were it not so dated, it would still be a bad film because it is so self-conscious, so poorly written, and so poorly acted, that I thought I was watching a Roger Corman cheapo horror film. Let me state, however, that there is more 'art' in your typical Corman piece from that era, say The Last Woman On Earth, because its commentary on the state of film-making and art was more subtle, if often unintentional. Godard, by contrast, is so garishly dying to show his audience how hip and intellectual he is that he somehow forgot to put any of that, nor substance, into his film.

He attempts to capture 'reality' on film without realizing that anything filmed becomes unreal, or irreal, as opposed to surreal. Thus, the art of film, or any art, can NEVER be real, and to convey reality most aptly, it needs to be most affected. Godard, by shooting his film with hand-held camera, as Parisians gawk at the filming in process, thus makes the most artificial of films, even as he tries to show the most boring aspects of life, glossing over crimes and 'deep' moments that other films contain, to show the dull times. He thus gets the two worst aspects of film- the 'artificiality' of cinema verité and the reality of dull life, rather than the two best: the 'reality' of film as artifice and the artifice of poetically chosen reality.

What little story the tale has starts abruptly. It is an odd start, but not unlike many bad 1950s kids' television shows, nor contemporaneous B horror films like Carnival Of Souls. A hood named Michel Poiccard (Jean-Paul Belmondo) steals a car in Marseilles and drives to Paris. On his way there, he is stopped for speeding and shoots a policeman. This goes by so quickly and without explanation that the viewer cannot empathize with him. Once in Paris, he needs to get money from a friend and flirts with an American female student named Patricia Franchini (Jean Seberg) he has had an affair with. They wax in and out of fancy with one another, and on it goes…. Across the pond, in America, at the time Breathless was being filmed, John Cassavetes was also making his feature film debut as a director, with Shadows, and although there is an amateurish quality to some aspects of that film, and it was not nearly praised as highly as Breathless, it was much less amateurish than this film, and holds up far better today, as a 'realist' piece of film-making. Breathless, by contrast, can only be defended as a historical curio, not artistically on its own merits, which is exactly what virtually all online essays that defend it do. Cassavetes' first film, by contrast, stands alone, and his usage of overlapping and realistic dialogue, not culled nor self-consciously quoted from Hollywood film dialogue, is far better than Godard's, which was stillborn when fellow auteur Francois Truffaut abandoned the screenplay to Godard. Godard captured none of the film noir joie de vivre that he hoped to, while Cassavetes brought American real life dialogue to the screen at the same time. Godard's characters never utter a believable line of dialogue. It is all a put on, for Michel is no more a gangster type than Belmondo- the actor who plays him, is, nor even Humphrey Bogart- the actor Michel imitates throughout the film. This is seen by apologists, however, as the film's style, although this so-called style is really stylelessness, and that is no more artistic than claiming formless Dave Eggersian puerility as a writing style….Later filmmakers went leagues beyond Godard, and actually demanded their innovations serve the film's tale, rather than merely being a piece of self-indulgence a haphazard and wan tale is draped over. With no good execution, no real depth, nor character development, what was intended as satire becomes, instead, awkward and obvious imitation, not witty enough for comedy, and more resembling something like film noir lite.

John Cassavetes was doing similar things in America, but doing them much better, for his filmic improvisations never came across as 'improvisations', but 'reality'. In short, for all the claims to the contrary, this film, at least, does not reveal a unique innovator in his art form, but an old Romantic masquing as a hipster, and wildly cobbling together a Frankensteinian mess. In America we call that person a poseur. In France they apparently call them geniuses….just like, um, Jerry Lewis.
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Indigestible, unbearable, murderous.
Rueiro10 June 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Once upon a time I went to watch this marvel or world cinema at a special Goddard screening at the Curzon Soho cinema in London, lured by the raving reviews I had read in many occasions...

It remains to this day as one of the most insufferable films I have ever watched...

Enduring that ninety-minute screening session was something like going through a whole treatment under the mercies of the Spanish Inquisition...

OK, I admit that making a film on a ridiculously low budget is not easy. But when the script is total rubbish, the acting is insufferable and the camera work is absolutely murderous, then any useless moron on this planet can make a movie.

They really thought they were making film history by using a hand-held camera again and again and again?!! Either they were high on weed or they were taking the audience for idiots.

The director and the camera operator should have been locked-up to stop them from making more crap like this in the future.

The Belmondo character should have been shot in the first five minutes of the film. Personally I'd wish I could soak him in petrol and set him alight.

One of the most overrated films in cinema history. A total and absolute waist of celluloid, money and audiences's time.

I should have spent the £8 of my ticket on booze instead. At least I would have got a lot more enjoyment.
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A wacky, wonderful look at people lying in bed doing nothing! October 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This is the film that started it all, and ended my insomnia! What a boring, dull film. talk about Nouvelle vague, it was VAGUE alright. no distinguishable storyline what so ever.

'Plot': It's that age old story of boy kills cop, boy meets girl, girl and boy lie in bed doing and saying ab-so-lute-ly nothing important or interesting at all, girl tells boy shes pregnant just to see boys reaction but isn't actually, girl grasses boy up to cops because she"doesn't know if she loves him", boy refuses to run because he is 'tired' and apparently 'stupid', boy gets shot in butt and dies, girl..not bothered.

Ye, ye i know. It revolutionized the film industry (apparently). I was told in film studies, i wrote an essay on it. But it reminds me of the St Louis Rams between 2002-2005. Lots of flashy new ideas but very little substance. The use of natural lighting seems like a good idea but in practice just looks pathetically amateur.
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Ladies and Gentlemen, the 8th Wonder of the World: Jean-Luc Godard.
nutsy27 October 2003
This is the one that started it all. With the story of a man on the run calling himself Laszlo Kovacs (a cinematographer of the time), Jean-Luc Godard arrived in the movies (well, on the production end, at least). This also more than his typical film essay. The story by Francois Truffaut makes for a terrific Godard script (the Truffaut stamp makes it comparable to SHOOT THE PIANO PLAYER). Jean-Paul Belmondo does well in the Kovacs role, humanizing our bad-guy hero right up to the slam-bang finish. Jean Seberg is his conflicted lover who must... well, just watch. A landmark of the French New Wave, which is one of the most important movements in cinema. Vastly superior to the 1983 BREATHLESS with Richard Geer and Fassinder's homage THE AMERICAN SOLDIER. This is guaranteed to be like few movies you've seen before (unless, of course, you're a fan of the New Wave). BREATHLESS is also very memorable for its music and unusual photography. Shows how European film brought out the importance of character in film and raised it to new heights (whereas in American film, a close-up is the closest you'll get to character development). This is a must for any film student and for anyone who just loves movies.
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"If you don't like this film...then you can get stuffed!"
Benedict_Cumberbatch25 December 2006
"À Bout de Soufflé" aka "Breathless", was the first full-length film directed by the controversial Jean-Luc Godard, and the first film of his long career that I've had the chance to see so far. "Breathless" is the landmark film of the Nouvelle Vague (New Wave), when young filmmakers such as François Truffaut thrilled the audiences and shocked the Establishment.

Although some people may not be as impressed with "Breathless" structure as they were in 1960, it remains a terrific, breathtaking film experience and has aged wonderfully. Such masterpieces live up to the hype and time, even though they're not as technically impressive as they were 40 years ago, and they're still powerful thanks to what great films consist of: passion. As another user rightfully stated, we have to look at "Breathless" from a historical point: it's different from any other previous film. Godard was truly a visionary and an incredibly talented, passionate "auteur".

"Breathless" plot is rather simple: Michel Poiccard/Laszlo Kovacs (Jean-Paul Belmondo), our anti-hero, is a young criminal on the run from the police, after stealing a car and killing a cop. He has an affair with a beautiful young American, Patricia (Jean Seberg), an aspiring journalist who sells the New York Herald Tribune in the middle of the Champs Élysées (her first scene here was paid a tribute by Eva Green in Bertolucci's "The Dreamers"), and is also expecting Michel's baby. Patricia helps Michel to dodge the police, while they steal cars together in order to raise money for a trip to Rome. But when you want to "vivre dangereusement jusqu'au bout" - or, live dangerously till the end, things may end up not so well.

When you see Belmondo touching his lips, trying to imitate Humphrey Bogart's trade mark, Seberg walking on the Élysées as lovely as a girl can be, the unforgettable final don't worry about theories on why this is a classic. "À Bout de Soufflé" is Cinema.
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Imprisoned In Its Era
Lechuguilla15 May 2009
When critics or viewers praise a film only because it was technically innovative when it was made ... beware. It may mean that the film has either minimal entertainment value or minimal thematic content. Such is indeed the case with "Breathless", a film noted for the director's willingness to break rules of traditional cinema. This film is far more improvised, more off-the-cuff, then "staged" films made in years prior to 1960.

The story, about an unlikeable cad who romances a young woman in Paris, is dull as dishwater. It has no thematic depth. The script treatment, written by Francois Truffaut a year or two before Jean-Luc Godard filmed the movie, is used more or less as the basis for the plot and the dialogue, sans screenplay. And it shows!

Characters are not well thought out. Our cad is a killer and a petty thief who smokes a lot. He's also obnoxious. At one point he looks directly into the camera and tells viewers: "If you don't like ... then get stuffed!" The young woman is unremarkable in every way, apart from her unisex hairdo, which may have been chic in 1960; today it looks atrocious.

Likewise, the film's improvised dialogue is horrible. At one point the cad asks the young woman: "Why are you looking at me?" Her response: "Because I'm looking at you". And then later, the woman says "Well, I don't know yet whether I love you". The cad asks: "When will you know?" She responds: "Soon". He asks: "What does soon mean? In a month, a year?" She answers "Soon means soon". Submit a screenplay to a studio these days with dialogue like that, and see what happens.

Casting and acting are mediocre and bland. The two main roles are not demanding. The film's production design conveys the impression that Godard was trying to appeal to an audience of haughty sophisticates. Thus, we get an artist's studio, convertible sports cars, and lots of cigarette smoking. The background music is mostly light jazz, and when combined with the costumes, production design, and hairstyles makes the film seem very dated.

Maybe "Breathless" was Godard's way of breaking through as a major film director in 1960, specifically by thumbing his nose at Hollywood film directors from previous decades. And there's some merit to that. But I'm viewing this film in 2009, not 1960; and I'm a viewer, not a film director. A film that has nothing to offer but innovation, invisible to the viewer, runs the risk of being time bound, imprisoned in its own era.

And I have no doubt that "Breathless" was technically innovative. As such, it's a film that deserves to be read about in film history books, and seen by film historians and film students. But as entertainment for a general audience decades after it was made, and in its overall thematic content, it has little or nothing to offer.
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Important historically, I find the film has aged badly and become quite silly
dbborroughs5 February 2008
I've been watching Breathless for the first time in many years on the Sundance Channel. Jean-Luc Godard's cinema changing film about a young tough in love with American movies and an American girl changed European cinema.I don't know if it was for the better or worse. My only real memory of watching the film from my film class days was the sense that one could see how it was copied by other filmmakers of the period. I retained very little of the plot. Actually I retained very little of anything concerning the film after each of the two or three times I've seen it. Watching it again for the first time in probably five or six years I'm struck by how silly it all is. Once the height of fashion and hip coolness I was not so quietly giggling to myself. The film has not aged very well and has become almost a parody of itself. I could feel the pretensions flooding off the screen. This isn't to say the film isn't good, it is on some level, however I think its better if viewed in the context of when it came out, instead of what it is today. Forgive me if I offend with this position, but watching Jean Seberg struggle with her French and Jean-Paul Belmondo attempt to be cool, is almost too funny for words. (Belmondo reminded me of a cousin who always tried to be hip and cool and tough, but instead came off as silly). Worth a look if you're interested in milestones of the cinema, however I think you may be hard pressed to make it to the end with a straight face.
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"completely and utterly awful"
Anon Amos9 October 2002
If you've never seen the BBC sitcom Black Adder, there is a scene in which the idiotic Baldrick hands Black Adder a copy of his novel (his "maximum octopus"), and it goes like this: "Once upon a time there was a lovely little sausage called Baldrick, and he lived happily ever after. The End." Black Adder, quite rightly, deems it "completely and utterly awful." Now imagine if the intellectuals of the day heralded Baldrick's manuscript as one of the best novels ever written, and it appeared constantly on critics' All-Time-Top-Ten lists. This is very close to the situation that has actually occurred with Breathless. It's one of the worst movies I've ever seen (and I'm a regular viewer of MST3K), and it is lauded by critics and famous film makers alike as a true masterpiece, up there with Citizen Kane, The Searchers, and Modern Times. Apparently, if you make a movie disjointed, poorly edited, illogically paced, and really uninteresting, all you have to do is be French, call it "new wave" and you can get away with it. Before you commie elitist snobs say I don't know what I'm talking about (probably too late), let me say I'm no stranger to so-called sophisticated films. My favorites are Andrei Rublev, 2001, 8 1/2, and The Thin Red Line, not exactly Big Momma's House. Some might be inclined to say that this movie is a style over substance, except it has no style. It has nothing. It is an artistic black hole, playing its modernist siren song to weak-minded intellectuals (a contradiction in terms, I know) and wasting people's time for over 40 years. One day, maybe five thousand years from now (give or take...), critics and cineastes will rightly ignore this movie, perceiving it's heyday popularity as a mere freak occurrence in public opinion, like disco or hula-hoops. Those of us who value rightness, decency, and good movies like The Crowd, can only hope.....
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Am glad i am not french or belong to the sixties
Kaustubh Rajnish12 April 2009
Breathless is an over hyped French movie with some good dialogs and some good camera work.

The plot is almost non-existent – a car thief kills a cop and then spends the rest of the film persuading the girl he loves to have sex with him and run away with him to Rome. Both have some cute and some rather irritating conversations

It looked like the kind of film which pseudo intellectuals will discuss, just cause someone told him or her it is important.

It could have been important considering it has some thousand jump cuts, poor synchronization of Audio and Visual, not to mention actions cut in the middle and scenes which start and stop out of nowhere.

Godard makes basic syntactical errors with his film-making and accidentally (to my mind) discovers jump cuts and so the film becomes important. He sure is lucky!!

Its like reading a book with wrong English and then saying how poetic. The problem with breathless is that even the mistakes committed by Godard do not actually make it easy to watch. Had that been the case we could have called it art but the bottom-line is that the mistakes look like they are mistakes and nothing more,

It gave me a headache to watch this , why ?? because incessant editing do not a good movie make. Just because somebody did for the first time that too unintentionally does not an iconic movie make.

I read somewhere on one of the posts in the boards that Godard did this to give the viewer a sense that it is a film and that he is there to change it

I refuse to buy that theory. If that was the case almost every next scene wouldn't skip and jump and only some relevant scenes would have been jump cutted as per the shot setting. Art does not mean that you cut the scene before it ended and leave it a loose end. As a matter of fact it is a must watch for film school types as an example of how not to make mistakes of the basic rules of connecting shots while editing.

Other stuff in the film is also not up to the mark. The action of the characters in the film seem rather whimsical and the end comes across as confused. The acting of some rather stylish actors appear rather sad thanks to the half cut scenes. The initial sounding befitting background music is used so much that you get bored of it by the end.

After watching Breatheless. I realized that a good population of film freaks act on the power of suggestion rather than looking at how unreal a possibility is.

To sum it in some two words. Over-Hyped. Pseudo Intellectual. Not Recommended.
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One for pretentious, bearding-rubbing students
tone_e20008 April 2010
A bout de soufflé is not a good film, no matter what people might tell you. If it was, people would still be making movies like this that don't make any sense, and everyone would love them. The whole point, though, of French New Wave was that it was breaking the rules, and thus was more of an experiment than an attempt to make proper movies. Undoubtedly, some of the techniques and styles have had a lasting influence on modern cinema, so it's certainly fair to regard A bout de soufflé as an important piece of work.

However, many people will swear that they were thoroughly entertained by it, and will name it as one of their favourite films of all time. Those people are usually hideously pretentious, and if you disagree with them, you'll be told, or at least made to feel, that you are somehow intellectually deficient, and therefore unable to understand a work of such substance. The truth is, you're just perfectly sane, and know a turd when you see one.
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Ugh! Skip this one if you care for your taste.
Weezy-LUiGi4 August 2013
The film that was banned for 4 years. Why..? (original Finnish poster tagline) Probably because the people who initially saw this were bored to tears! Geez, I'm going to draw a lot of controversy and pretentious sneers from others, but I could not stand this trite, senseless attempt at 'film' or 'art'. The main character is an absolutely boring, outrageously stupid sleazebag who couldn't display charisma if given a death threat. The editing is choppy and unrealistic, even by MTV standards, which is a comparison drawn by many "obviously smarter and open-minded" reviewers who drink vinaigrette by the barrel while delivering unrelenting praise to the latest Terence Malick endeavour. There was no soundtrack to speak of, at least none I could notice over the banal, uninteresting dialogue and slower than molasses narrative. The only half-decent thing in the flick was Jean Seberg, and even she was as enthusiastic as Valium can make you. Blech! I had no investment in anything happening on screen, and once that happens, you've lost me from your picture. If you liked it, you can have it. I will not take this away from you. Just keep it the hell away from me! 0.1/5
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Sure it revolutionized movies, no argument there, but it's not that much fun to watch thirty-odd years later.
Infofreak11 November 2002
Godard's 'Breathless' is regarded as one of the most important and influential movies of the modern era. And you'll get no argument from me on that score. But unlike other classics by Hitchcock, Welles, Lang, Kubrick or Peckinpah, it is a movie to be admired, but not I'm sad to say enjoyed. Watching it to me is almost like doing homework. You can immediately see in what ways it must have been daring and innovative at the time, and you can understand how many things about it, (especially the editing, which alternates jerky cuts with slow passages of dialogue about "nothing"), influenced everything from 'Easy Rider' to 'Reservoir Dogs'. But is it entertaining viewing? No. Belmondo and Seberg are cool and charismatic and act impressively, but you never care one hoot for their relationship or what happens to them. The crime angle of 'Breathless' is just a Macguffin, and Godard just uses it as an excuse for some (admittedly) very impressive shots. In many ways it is quite a cold movie. The viewer is deliberately kept at a distance, and this is its ultimate downfall. I would recommend 'Breathless' as as essential viewing for every film buff because of its technique and style, but if you were to ask me if I honestly ENJOY watching this movie I would have to say no, I don't.
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How the French cinema lost its innocence...
dbdumonteil6 September 2003
François Ozon,one of the most talented contemporary French directors,told once he did not care about the nouvelle vague.With notable exceptions (Demy,Malle,Chabrol),I do not either.

The nouvelle vague and particularly Godard were the so called saviours of a moribund cinema.Some critics talked about the fascist arrogance of those young Turks and I can find little fault with the opinions expressed.

"Before us (nouvelle vague) ,there was a difference of quality between a Renoir and a Duvivier movie;now ,there's also a difference of nature" It's talking nonsense.

"A bout de souffle" features a plot which finds a lot of its inspiration in the American film noirs,it's not bad,but anyway,it's not the story that counts ,it's the form.But this art is pretty arty,and all that made the French cinema great:painstaking cinematography,strong screenplays,in a nutshell what made cinema magic,par excellence the show,almost everything was swallowed by the "wave" .

"A bout de souffle" (breathless) was probably a metaphor of the "old hat" cinema which Godard despised.Its release had an unfortunate outcome:great directors like Duvivier and Carné were relegated to purgatory even their finest works,and the French fifties were buried ;nowadays ,critics tend to restore to favour this overlooked era.

We can give the film credit for the actors:both Belmondo and Jean Seberg were excellent.But this would be milestone in cinema history is a good example of how smart artists can manipulate the crowds.
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More fun to discuss than to watch
Steve Pulaski22 January 2014
Watching Jean-Luc Godard's massively influential, unintentional-classic Breathless and discussing Jean-Luc Godard's massively influential, unintentional-classic Breathless are two totally different things. For one, the latter is more fun the other and, two, discussing the film almost instantly allows for quality, intelligent discussion of cinema to ring. There are certain cinephiles that take Godard himself more seriously than they take any other director who has ever lived. Just when you thought Stanley Kubrick-fanatical elitism was out of control, spend about ten minutes, as an exercise, scouring the internet for French New Wave forums and in-depth analysis of the Godardian methods and you may be surprised at what you find.

I'm only stating this because around a year and a half ago, I began my sporadic voyage into the depths of Godard with his most recent picture, at the time, Film Socialisme, which I found to be an assault on every conceivable sense and not in a particularly good way. The film was choppy, disjointed, messy, just about as incomprehensible as it could be, and trying to find justifications or analyses online proved ineffective. All and all, it's a film I just want to forget and I didn't care to dive into Godard much after that endeavor. I now realize that a decent part of the blame is on me for choosing perhaps the wrong film to begin my Godardian journey with. I emerge from seeing Breathless (known by its French title as À bout de soufflé) with a more of a positive reaction. This is a bravely-structured and maturely handled annihilation to every cinematic convention prior to its 1960 release down with class and impenetrable style on part of Godard.

The story - even though it is relatively the least of our concerns - follows Michel (Jean-Paul Belmondo), who is trying to emulate the characteristics possessed by Humphrey Bogart during the particular 40s/50s era of menacing American crime dramas that billed him as the lead actor. One day, feeling intimidated and a perhaps a little adventurous, Michel shoots a police officer who has been tailing him and now must deal with being broke and on the run from the cops. His only companion is Patricia (Jean Seberg), an American journalist getting by in life by selling newspapers in downtown Paris. The two desperately skim through their options trying to hide from the police, one of which is skipping town and going all the way to Italy as fugitives.

I say the story is the least of our concerns because there is simply not much to it. After all, Breathless is an aesthetic breakthrough rather than a narrative one. Godard employs dangerously subversive jump cuts - where the camera cuts to another shot within the same frame creating a breach in continuity - along with rapid-fire, quick shots and lengthy dialog scenes. All of this broke French cinema convention, which, prior to this, was consistently polished and very elegant. Godard invited in a rebellious messiness to the picture, almost like the guy coming into a neatly-organized room and rustling all the papers and files to not only create a stir but to do something different, something completely new.

It's almost shortchanging to simply say that I have immense respect for Godard seeing as in 1960, a time when social change and civil unrest amongst adolescents and twentysomethings seemed to be so prevalent in many different places, he ushered in a new way of doing things cinematically and created a stylistically bold film because of it. He even threw in the element of using a hand-held camera, an unheard of practice during this particular time. I think I would also be in line to compare Breathless to Bonnie and Clyde, a film that would enter the picture seven years later in American studios that would simultaneous shock and stimulate audiences everywhere.

Godard's films have a unique power after you watch them. For example, it has been about four days since I sat down to watch Breathless and since watching it - and now writing a medium-length analysis of it - I have a strong, biting urge to watch more of Godard's films. His films have the kind of impact where you just want to talk about them and talk about their impact in great length; which, once more, brings me to the point that watching the films is actually the weaker part compared to discussing them.

Starring: Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg. Directed by: Jean-Luc Godard.
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I truly wish this movie had never been made
MartinHafer27 August 2006
OVERRATED "ART FILM" ALERT: The following film is adored by sophisticated and "with it" film fans. The fact that the average person may find the whole thing unfunny and bland is due to their just not being smart enough to understand and appreciate this masterpiece.

While this is not a terrible film, part of me wishes this film had never been made. After all, this was the "granddaddy" of all French New Wave films and it ushered in many, many self-indulgent films that were proclaimed "art" despite the fact that they often deliberately used shoddy production values and were disliked by the ordinary person because they "just didn't get it"--yeah, right. This elitism was really just an excuse to make lousy films that, on occasion, really, really made no sense. While the movie's writer, Truffaut, went on to far better things--actually making some very good New Wave films, the success of this film encouraged Jean-Luc Godard to make worse films--such as ALPHAVILLE, PIERRE LE FOU, A WOMAN IS A WOMAN and FIRST NAME: CARMEN. All these films shared common denominators in that they made very little sense, had rotten camera-work and featured people that the average sane person could care less about as their stories unfolded. Oddly enough, Truffaut and Godard got their show business start as film critics who hated traditional French movies. They began making films that deliberately violated conventions and, at times, sensibilities.

My biggest problem with BREATHLESS in particular is that I truly hated the central character. Once again, Jean-Paul Belmondo plays a real self-centered jerk (what I actually want to call his character is a lot less pleasant, but kids also read these reviews). There is NOTHING redeemable about the man--he steals car after car, murders a cop and lies almost every time he opens his mouth. Plus, he just seems cocky and unlikable. How Jean Seberg's character can even stand to be around him makes absolutely no sense.

A second problem, and it was deliberately done by Godard, is the annoying edits he sometimes made. He deliberately made some scenes choppy and wanted the scene to appear very choppy. Well, if bad camera-work was his goal, why didn't he just film the movie in a coal mine or put his hand over the lens! These would make about as much sense and annoy the public just as well.

The third problem is that the film is very, very, very talky and dull. For a major portion of the film, the central characters lie in bed and talk and talk about pretty much nothing. Yes, I know that IS the point of FRENCH NEW WAVE in many cases, but it makes for a terrible film.

The only good thing about the film was a reference to "Bob the gambler". I assume this is a reference to the 1955 French Film Noir film BOB LE FLAMBEUR--especially since they also say that Bob is now in jail (that's how the movie BOB LE FLAMBEUR ended). This is a cute "inside joke" to an exceptional French film.

By the way, I actually saw the film twice. Once, years ago and just yesterday because I thought it MUST have been better than I remembered it. Considering how I have trashed most Godard films I have reviewed (there are some exceptions), I felt an obligation to see it again just to give it a fair chance. I did and it STILL stank.
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Invention in narration
Vishal Agrawal28 December 2005
'Breathless' is considered one of the best by Goddard and I think it is. It's a short documentary-like-film. There are parts where it becomes difficult to sit through as the conversation becomes longish or pointless but if you've watched a few films by Goddard you get used to getting bored in parts. The whole movie is a police-convict chase and nothing much happens through out the movie. There are just interesting dialogs and a good narration. Psychology of a criminal and his girlfriend is portrayed effectively by Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg The most notable aspect of this film is the detailing of each and every scene. The outside traffic noise inside an apartment, lights of moving object filtering in through windows, police chase etc looks real and interesting. 'Breathless' is also one of the initial 'New Wave' films which started the whole MTV style i.e. jump cuts, fractured sound thing. It's so weird that when you look at it you wonder what's great about the film as these things are now done by amateur film makers. It's like listening to Chuck Berry and wondering why is he is respect over Keith Richards. The reason is simple- improvisation is easier than invention for example Thakur's family massacre scene in 'Sholay' or Suneel Dutts helicopter chase scene in 'Shaan' are better than their original scenes from 'Once upon a time in the west' and 'North by Northwest' respectively because it's easier to reproduce a finished product with extra ingredients but creating a product from the scratch is difficult. 'Breathless' is an invention and will remain in the history of cinema as a path breaking invention. A must watch for a person who loves cinema as an art.
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