11. Breathless (1960)

Directed by Jean-Luc Godard

Written by Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffat

Produced by Georges de Beauregard 

Starring: Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg

Country: France

Release Date: March 17, 1960

Running Time: 87 minutes

Why you should see it?

This film is consider the beginning of modern films. After Citizen Kane, Breathless is one of the most influential debut films in history. Breathless might seem a cheapie crime melodrama but it isn’t, it is in fact one of the master pieces of the French New Wave and ergo had influenced a lot of directors like Nagasi Oshima, Wim Wenders, or Quentin Tarantino.

Breathless is an astonish film rough, abrasive and casual. One of the major characteristics of the film is that Godard uses lightweight cameras and is shot mostly with available light and in a high contrast monochrome. The dialogues were work from an improvise story line. And of course the jump cut editing technique creating an innovation in the narrative.

But the bigger break-through of the movie is the movie is the thematic. Godard put in the screen the jagged, intuitive temperament  of youth in a way nobody else had done it before. He shows the terror, wonders and isolation of being young in a big city.

Finally Breathless (as a New Wave film) is a slap in the face of the existing French cinema, and leaving behind a print of a more personal style.

PLOT

Michel  is a young petty criminal who models himself on the film persona of Humphrey Bogart. After stealing a car in Marseille, Michel shoots a policeman who has followed him onto a country road. Penniless and on the run from the police, he turns to his American girlfriend Patricia, a student and aspiring journalist, who sells the New York Herald Tribune on the streets of Paris.

The ambivalent Patricia unwittingly hides him in her apartment as he simultaneously tries to seduce her and call in a loan to fund their escape to Italy. At one point, Patricia says she is pregnant with Michel’s child. She learns that Michel is on the run when questioned by the police. Eventually, she betrays him, but before the police arrive, she tells Michel what she did. He is somewhat resigned to a life in prison, and does not try to escape at first. The police shoot him in the street and, after a prolonged death run, he dies “à bout de souffle” (at breath’s end).

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