Film / Breathless
is a 1960 film directed by Jean-Luc Godard
, in his feature filmmaking debut. Its original French title is "À bout de souffle" which translates literally to "at breath's end" with the general meaning being "out of breath." Along with François Truffaut
's The 400 Blows
and Alain Resnais' Hiroshima, Mon Amour
, it gained attention for the French New Wave
The basic plot is fairly simple, seasoned by Godard with pop-cultural meta-commentary and Paris travelogue. Petty criminal Michel steals a car and, seeing that a policeman is following him on motorcycle, shoots said cop. He then flees to Paris and hides out with his American girlfriend. Eventually after she learns that he is a fugitive, she turns him in to the police. After a chase through the city on foot, he is shot and killed.Breathless
made an international star of former boxer Jean-Paul Belmondo and raised the profile of Jean Seberg, whose Hollywood career had stalled when she starred in the big budget flop Saint Joan
A remake was done in The '80s
starring Richard Gere
Tropes associated with Breathless include:
- Badass: Deconstructed with Michel, who tries hard to be one but isn't much more than a low-rank criminal, which leads towards his quick and grotesque downfall.
- Bilingual Dialogue: One sequence has Patricia and an unnamed man conversing in a cafe. The conversation switches from English to French and back to English again on a dime.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: Godard doesn't go as crazy with it here as much as in later films like Le Weekend, but Michel frequently talks to the camera/audience.
- Character Tics: Michel moves his thumb across his lips multiple times to appear Badass, as well as a Shout-Out to Humphrey Bogart's role in The Maltese Falcon.
- Lampshaded at one point when he sees a poster of Bogart, studies it reverently, and proceeds to emulate the aforementioned gesture.
- Played for Drama in the end when he is shot and his girlfriend moves her thumb across her lips. Or Played for Laughs, depending on your humor.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Michel can certainly come off as one at times. His drive through the countryside at the beginning of the film is charmingly bizarre, to say the least.
- Creator Cameo: Godard shows up briefly as an informant.
- Foreign Remake : Was remade in 1983 into an American film starring Richard Gere. Not well known but not bad.
- The Ingenue: The last image of the film is of the girl looking into the camera and saying, innocently, "What does it mean, 'disgusting'?" (She's speaking in French, which is not her first language.)
- Jump Cut: The movie helped popularize them. However, they weren't done because of stylistic choice as much as the fact that Goddard neded to shorten the picture, so he got rid of frames randomly. Or so he claimed.
- Seinfeldian Conversation: This being a Godard work, this movie's filled with them. Michel and his girl talk about the most random things, even when in bed....
- Smoking Is Cool: Michel clearly thinks so, although some viewers may be put off by the detail with which burning cigarettes are shown, ashes and all. Godard himself believed in this as did most people in France then.
- Stealth Parody: Certain elements of the film noir genre, and by extension, classic Hollywood films (the effortlessly cool protagonist, long takes with minimal editing, suspenseful plotting, bleak and cynical tone) are oh-so-subtly skewered by Godard. Makes sense, given that he was a part of the French New Wave, a movement which openly rejected literary and cinematic conventions of the era.
- Suicide by Cop: Arguable case. Michel kills a policeman and resists arrest, so his death isn't unpredictable.
- Trope Codifier: The greatest legacy of Breathless may very well be its idiosyncratic usage of jump cuts. While the editing technique was not unheard of at the time, they became much more popular upon release.
- Trope Maker: One of the earliest examples of French New Wave cinema, and one of the most acclaimed works to come out of the movement.
- Villain Protagonist: Michel.