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New Blu Wave

“I consider my Breathless as being the end of old cinema. Destroying all the old principles rather than creating something new.”
Jean-Luc Godard, 1961

So much has been written and said about Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless, one of the indisputable landmarks of world cinema (right up there with The Birth of a Nation, Sunrise and Citizen Kane), that the prospect of lecturing or writing about it as a film studies instructor seems a daunting challenge. Nonetheless, Criterion’s recent Blu-ray release offers an opportunity to see Godard’s revolutionary film with fresh eyes — for the low-budget, goofy and freewheeling good time that it is. Since falling under its spell at the age of 19, I have seen Breathless more than 40 times in every conceivable format, with each new viewing feeling like a visit with a dear, old friend. And so it is that I feel highly qualified to say that this crisp new high-definition transfer yields heretofore unseen details, making an already timeless film feel fresher and more modern than ever.

Based on a treatment by Francois Truffaut, Breathless tells the story of Michel (Jean-Paul Belmondo), a small-time Parisian car thief who kills a cop for no good reason and then spends the rest of the film half-heartedly avoiding a police dragnet while simultaneously attempting to convince his American girlfriend, Patricia (Jean Seberg), to run away to Italy with him. Although the tale is familiar, the telling is not; eschewing the Hollywood sheen one might expect from such typical crime-movie material, Breathless instead self-consciously juxtaposes “movie” elements with “real life” elements in a way that reflects the exuberantly playful and intellectually provocative spirit of the then-29 year old Godard. Incredibly, it was his first feature, although the years he had spent as a film critic for Cahiers du Cinema must have prepared him well for conceiving radical new ways to employ sound and image.

Unlike most of Godard’s challenging, post-1967 work (for which I mostly have tremendous respect), Breathless works precisely because its experimental/formal aspects (such as the celebrated use of the jump-cut) are balanced against a portrait of young love enacted by a pair of enormously charismatic performers. This is most obvious during the 25-minute real-time sequence where Michel and Patricia cavort in the tiny hotel room where she is staying; as they hop in and out of bed, listen to the radio, smoke endless cigarettes and talk about everything under the sun, Patricia continually attempts to engage Michel in discussions of her favorite artists: Mozart, Faulkner and Renoir (the elder). For his part, Michel mostly attempts to cajole Patricia into taking off her clothes. The restless, youthful energy of Belmondo and Seberg makes us not care that the film’s plot has temporarily stopped dead in its tracks. And why shouldn’t it? We know it’s just a movie anyway, as Godard is all too happy to remind us, and who doesn’t want to just hang out with these attractive and interesting people for an extended period of time?

Like most early New Wave films, Breathless was shot quickly and cheaply on location, giving the film an incredible documentary value. Godard and master cinematographer Raoul Coutard use natural lighting, handheld camera and extensive tracking shots (most of which were taken with a hidden camera) to make the streets of Paris come alive. In both this respect, and in what might be called its willingness to “de-center” the plot, Breathless resembles nothing so much as the Italian Neo-realist films of Godard’s hero Roberto Rossellini. However, unlike Rome, Open City or Paisan, which are downbeat and even relentlessly bleak in their depiction of social problems, Breathless is an upbeat and joyous celebration of life, which is fitting given the drastically different social and economic conditions between 1940s Rome and 1950s Paris. Nevertheless, Godard’s attempt to bring to fruition the paradoxical concept of “French Neo-realism” (a phrase he had perversely used as a critic to describe Jacques Tati’s Jour de Fete) is a good example of both his audacity and his impish sense of humor.

The most radical aspect of Breathless, although obviously less impactful today, is its self-reflexivity. Throughout the movie Godard employs Brechtian distancing devices that constantly remind us that we are watching a movie. These range from having Michel directly address the camera (“Faire foutre!”), and thereby breaking the fourth wall, to the more subtle ways that Godard dissolves the line between character and performer so that we end up with, in Godard’s own words, a documentary about the actors; this is true not only of Michel/Belmondo and Patricia/Seberg but also of Parvelescu the arrogant novelist, played by ace French director Jean-Pierre Melville (the first in a long line of older, sage-like figures in Godard). The most obvious example of Godard’s proclivity for self-reflexivity however, is the aforementioned jump-cut, where frames have been pulled from the middle of shots during the editing process. What had previously seemed like a mistake in the work of other directors gives Breathless its very modern and dynamic sense of pacing, a rhythm that one critic has likened to a needle skipping across a record.

Speaking personally, I will always remember Breathless as the movie that made me fall deeper in love with the film medium. Much like how the music of Bob Dylan sent me on a journey of discovery through traditional folk and blues music, Godard’s film performed for me the crucial function of unlocking the secret history of cinema. How could I not want to track down every reference in this movie-mad movie in which every frame seemed so pregnant with meaning, where affectionate nods to Monogram Pictures, Humphrey Bogart, Bob le Flambeur, They Live By Night, The Harder They Fall, Whirlpool, Westbound and Forty Guns combine together and explode in a giddy post-modern cocktail (before the word “post-modernism” even existed)?

Criterion’s Blu-ray release of Breathless, as with all of their Blu-ray releases so far, is exemplary. The film’s charcoal gray palette has a thicker, richer texture than even their very good standard DVD release from a couple years ago. The film-grain quality is pleasing and fine object detail is drastically improved. As someone who first saw Breathless on the old “Connoisseur” VHS label, I can only imagine how the Blu-ray will impress a whole new generation of young cinephiles. If there is one drawback to this new release of Breathless, it’s that Criterion has failed to correct some of the minor English subtitle inaccuracies, carried over wholesale from the DVD. For instance, Patricia’s line to Michel, “Say something nice” should be translated as “Tell me something nice” in order for Godard’s reference to Johnny Guitar to make sense. And, let’s face it, the French “faire foutre” should be translated not as “get stuffed” (a phrase no English-speaker actually uses), but instead as the more accurate and common expression of “go fuck yourself.”

Check out Godard’s original theatrical trailer for Breathless via YouTube below:

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About michaelgloversmith

Filmmaker, author and Film Studies instructor. View all posts by michaelgloversmith

28 responses to “New Blu Wave

  • George Kostopoulos

    Before the screening, i had mixed feelings about breathless. I thought the plot seemed too average and reincarnated. Then I quickly realized how many comical references to Hollywood gangster film occurred throughout breathless. This molded my original view concerning the movies plot into one that was by far more original and genuine. Michel is one of my favorite characters throughout film. Its as if hes too slick for his era that really make his performance stand out. His character is so convincing and rounded that audience members focus their attention on him more than they do on the scenery or plot. His charm and attitude is what creates for the hotel scene to be better than any other twenty five minute hotel scene could possibly aspire to become. You have to have great actors to make such a scene seem interesting and awesome. I defiantly agree with you concerning the scenes importance regardless of its relevance to the plot or anything else for that matter.Its was just another opportunity to create even more sexually orientated desires for Michele to be presented, which are funny to watch. It was also cool how Godard used reflexive aspects to remind viewers that their watching a movie not a documentary. I personal loved the use of jump cuts simply because their direct and allow for the audience to make connection with images. The use of jump cuts definitely fits Michel’s fast paced,smooth character. And creates a very modern feel for the movie. With all that being said Breathless turned out to be one of my favorite movies from the past. This is simply because of Michel character, hes a mans man, they’re couldn’t be a boy in Paris who didn’t want to be him. Thats how influential his role seemed to be, from his dialogue to his mannerisms, he sold the film.

    • michaelgloversmith

      Thanks for being first to respond, George. I’m glad that the actual screening of the film shattered any preconceptions you had about the plot based on my introductory remarks. The plot is indeed average and recycled but this movie is not about plot, which I think some of your classmates didn’t quite get. I think they wanted it to be a Hollywood-style crime film, which prevented them from appreciating it for what it is: a parody/critique of Hollywood-style crime films. I also like your description of the way the jump-cut allows the viewers to “make connections with the images.” The point is to force us to be active viewers. One of your classmates said that he find the jump-cuts “distracting.” Of course! That’s the whole point — this movie is nothing but distractions!

  • brian kim

    Brian Kim

    A much needed cigarette was had after i watched this film. To be honest the movie i thought the movie had a nice flow to it and the jump cuts did not bother me. I didn’t find plot of the movie very interesting, but i definitely give props to Godard for being such an innovator and pioneer during that time. I could only image what people thought of when they would watch a movie and see editing such as jump cuts or talking right to the audience; or how funny the usage of shooting on scene must have been sometimes. People probably had no idea what was going on and i think their curiosity made the scenes a bit more interesting. I may a missed a few jump cuts, but like i said early it really didn’t stick out as much as i thought it would. I did however notice and enjoyed those random conversations that Michel would have with Patricia. I found it gave a little more insight on the characters and how they are as “people” in the movie. I also found the movie quite funny, especially in the beginning when he is driving in the car and he’s just talking to himself; also playing and waving the gun around.

  • Mario Nudo

    Breathless was a great movie. Goddard took me on a ride of a day in the life of car theif and ladies man Michel. Although on this day he unfortunately meets his demise. Throughout the movie Godard made me feel like I was hanging out with Michel and Patricia. The viewer goes where they go, and listens to there conversations (kind of like a third wheel).Godard includes you in the movie by having Michel address the camera directly. I for one didn’t mind the jump cuts, although at times I felt they were being used where they weren’t neccessary. Like when Patricia is getting in the car the camera jump cuts and doubles back to her opeing the car door twice. Other times it fits perfectly like when Michel is yelling at the taxi driver, the scene becomes a montage of commands. I don’t quite understand Michel and Patricia’s relationship. Michel says he’s in love with her but yet he is always gawking at other women, he makes fun of her, and they even sleep with other people. It’s no wonder their relationship didn’t work.. Overall breathless was a good film.

  • Naafe Hakeem

    I think “Breathless” was a good movie. Goddard did a nice job displaying lots of characteristics of the French New Wave in this film.
    For example, one of the characteristics of the French New Wave is that the film is taken through tracking, panning, and hand held camera shots. As you mentioned above, there were tracking shots and handheld camera shots in this film. One of the hand held camera shots I noticed was when in the beginning when Michael steals a car. While he is driving, you can clearly see the camera moving more than it should. By the amount of movement in that scene, you can figure out that there is a handheld camera being used.
    Another French New Wave characteristic I noticed was the jump-cuts. Although some people found the jump-cuts distracting, I did not have a problem with it. When Michael and Patricia are driving to the restaurant, the scene jumps while they are driving. I felt it sped the film up a little and made it more smoother.
    A thing I liked in the film was that when Michael and Patricia are walking, all the people walking around them were staring at them. It was unusual because we are so used to those people being actors, but it was fun to watch their reactions.
    The success Goddard achieved through these new techniques reminds me of a quote. “Following other people will only take you as far as they go, but going your own way will help you discover things never imagined.” Although other directors at this time were using similar and previously used styles to create their films, Goddard decided to take a risk and create his own style. Handheld camera shots, jump-cuts, and talking directly to the camera are all things in a movie that would annoy the audience, but I feel these new tactics proved to the film industry that taking risks isn’t always a bad idea.

  • Richie Brennan

    The picture Breathless is the most unusual structure films I have ever viewed before.Breathless conventions reminds me of Italian Neo-realism and French Poetic Realism. For instants, Miche and Patricia act 100% like ordinary people. Miche is a man whore and a smooth talker. He doesn’t give a shit about a woman’s reputation. All he wants to do is have sex. Italian Neo-realism fits in his perspective. In the real world, young guys just want to do it. Its true.
    French Poetic Realism also plays a role the film. Miche and Patricia for example. The are both friends. Miche is in love with Patricia and Patricia is not. So, criticism happens in there scenario. We see in the end, that since she finds out he killed a cop, Patricia calls the cops. Quiet frequently, their is no happy ending. Miche finally comes to ends meet and pays the price. Patricia I was shocked she called the police, (it was unusual). I would liked to see that she would of turned herself in for stealing the car.
    The whole idea of jump-cuts through out the film made it intriguing to watch. In most Hollywood films we actors/actresses taking there sweet ass time,(when there occupied with something). In Breathless, when Miche and Patricia are either walking, smoking after sex, or stealing cars the shots are skipping to the other objective. For example, I could be sitting on the toilet and the next scene I am washing my hands, ( frame is in the same spot). I praised this element . Its skipping through time and space.
    Futher more, the jump-cuts are in a smooth course. The creator Jean-Lue Godards made this movie a classic cinema film. Witch I do believe in my point of view. I think that movie goers/viewers wont ever see a perfect rhythm of jump-cuts in a movie.

    • pmontesantos.oracle@gmail.com

      Peter Montesantos

      I must say, I was rather fond of Godard’s French New Wave film “Breathless.” I thought that Godard does a great job of portraying his very own unique “auteur” theory with many different mechanisms showing up throughout.
      My favorite mechanism of the French New Wave that Godard integrated into this film was the seemingly constant hand-held camera action, pan shots and tracking shots. It seemed like the camera was never put down or taken off the shoulder. My favorite example a tracking shot was when Patricia was walking out of her meeting with a newspaper editor of some sort and the camera followed them all the way out as it tracked behind them, and then the camera picked up Michel, who was spying on them, without missing a beat. It is then Michel’s turn to walk towards the camera as it tracks backwards. My favorite pan was when Michel shot the man and was running through the field. The camera itself did not move, but it panned left and followed Michel as he was fleeing the scene.
      Another mechanism I enjoyed was the casual humor. The best was during the 25 minute scene where Michel and Patricia are just talking and laying and kissing in her room and every time Michel touched her butt she would slap him pretty hard. Although a slap is not very subtle or casual, Michel’s hand motion to grab her ass is spot-on casual. Michel is hilarious throughout this entire film with how damn horny he always is. Another example of this was when Michel sees some hitchhikers as he is driving alone in the opening scene and says, “I’ll charge a kiss a mile,” and then follows it up with “oh, hell they are both dogs,” as he approached closer to the two female hitchhikers. I thought this was again some pretty funny casual humor.
      Reading other classmate’s replies, everyone is obviously talking about the jump-cut probably because it is the most famous mechanism in this film. My favorite jump-cut, however, and no one has mentioned it yet was when Michel and Patricia are riding in one of his stolen cars and Michel just goes on a complimenting rant. “I like your hair, I like your cheeks, I like your shoulders, I like your wrists…” and he goes on and on. Every time Michel would tell her that another body part of her’s is beautiful, the camera would perform a jump-cut.
      There are many more French New Wave tools used by Godard in “Breathless” such as the constant shooting on location, and also the way that the characters acknowledged the audience and looked into the camera. I loved the ending, even though I had no idea what it meant, when Patricia looked at the camera and asked what “puke” means. She’s gorgeous. The end.

  • Ross Jurek

    Breathless would have been an interesting film without the experimentation involved, but with it, it sets itself to be a pioneering effort. Anyone who is willing to challenge something as set in its ways as film is deserving of respect, to be successful as well as innovative makes the film a legend. I found that the jump cuts in the film as well as the actors looking into the camera, while making me aware I was watching a film, made me focus more on the dialogue. It was the unexpectedness of the jumps and looking straight at me that made these very long shots and long somewhat pointless conversations interesting; had a normal film attempted to make me sit through twenty five minutes of one meandering conversation that seemingly goes nowhere I would have tuned out till action took place, but the experimental nature of it kept me refocusing. The main conflict itself almost seemed irrelevant to the director, throughout I felt myself almost forgetting he is being chased due to the completely melodramatic and slow pace the cops seemed to be chasing Michel and only a few times during the movie does the director remind you that there is a massive man hunt for the murderer. The story itself was more about a weird, stupid, very stupid love story between Michel and Patrice.

  • Abraham P

    This film is very influential in that a few modern films I have watched most notable Quentin Tarantino films you can see how much Godard has influenced Tarantino’s style. Throughout the film Michel and Patricia are having dialogue that does not help progress the plot but enhance the film itself. Tarantino does this a lot with his films that he has directed ranging from his first film Reservoir Dogs to his recently released film such as Django Unchained as well as films he has either wrote a script/produced for such as From Dusk Till Dawn and True Romance. As you stated Godard was influenced by Italian Neorealism in that the film was entirely shot on location, loose narrative structure in that the film does not simply follow Michel around Paris evading the police but also Patricia in her journey to become a better aristocrat. This film presents French New Wave in that their is plenty of casual humor in the film along with many references to other films such as Michel looking at a poster of Humphrey Bogart and reenacting his lip movement and gestures. They also break the fourth wall quite a lot when Michel talks straight into the camera and speaking to the audience. Throughout the film there are many tracking shots, panning, and hand held camera movements such as when Michel is driving away and you can tell the camera man was doing it on purpose. Godard is famous for his innovative use of jump cut in which a cut between 2 shots of the same subject without a change in the camera angle was crazy. I could see why a few people would not like seeing this type of technique but I liked it and how it helped the film with it’s casual humor for example when Michel is repeatedly yelling at the taxi driver was genius! When Michel is shot in the end and is running away Godard is making fun of the gangster genre in which there is a long shoot out/run sequence in the end and with the way Michel was running you can tell Godard wanted to poke fun of that genre. In conclusion this film was great and innovative with new techniques and with great actors who played Michel and Patricia you can tell this film would jump cut straight into the French New Wave genre.

  • Mike Janczak

    After watching “Breathless”, I couldn’t help but note the similarities it shared with film noir. It was similar to noir all while being completely different in a significant amount of ways. While “Breathless” lacks just about every single convention of any film noir film like having voice-over narration or low-key lighting, I was still reminded of noir. It wasn’t the police shoot out early on or the occasional fedora appearance, it was looking back on the film as a whole. After watching “Dead Reckoning” it’s clear that even those behind the film itself are unsure to the outcome of each character. However, despite the convoluted plotline, one thing is for sure. It’s the fact that the movie succeeded due to its style and presentation, the plot doesn’t really matter too much at all. It’s the same exact case in “Breathless” except for the fact Godard essentially points it out directly.
    The police are clearly hunting for Michel and tension should certainly be rising but Godard makes it a point to just stop everything flat. If the film’s plotline was the most important factor, then Godard probably wouldn’t have included that hotel scene. However, he did and the jump-cuts throughout that scene help remind you you’re watching a film. If the plot mattered there definitely would have been more emphasis on other scenes or action. The only reason one would want to remind you you’re watching a film especially at that particular part is to call attention to the very fact you’re watching a film. That was arguably the most enjoyable part of the film and it was simply talking in a hotel room. There’s a moment when you see a jump-cut then and realize you’re just watching two people talk in a hotel room. That self-reflexivity that you mention, Mr. Smith, is likely the most powerful thing anyone can take from the film. Jean-Paul Sartre seemed to notice the fact as well, and being a philosopher it only leads me to connect the film to life itself. It makes me even think back to that class period we had when we discussed the inevitability of death. Death could come at any given moment and any time you see someone could be the last time. Death could very well be the punishment Michele receives as a result of committing murder himself. If the police represent death in some way, Michel barely tries to avoid it. When they’re basically sweeping the town for him, he’s just in the hotel room with Patricia enjoying his time with her. I think that alone speaks volumes about how Godard thinks you should spend your time. When the jaws of death come closer and closer to someone, you could very well try and flee and do everything in your power to avoid it. But, that time spent in the hotel room was perhaps the most enjoyable portion of the film for both the characters and the viewer. Michele just bides his time enjoying every second instead of trying to escape the problems that overwhelm him. Even in the end when Patricia tells Michel the police are on their way, he doesn’t run, but instead asks why… Michel seemed to enjoy his life even down to his literal last breath, full of cigarette smoke. Godard was likely trying to ask ‘Why spend all this time trying to escape an inevitable demise while all along it’s the special person in your life that really makes you “Breathless”?

  • Lia Rivera

    Watching “Breathless” was very different from other films I have watched, especially because of the jump-cuts. As much as people discussed in class that they noticed all of the film movement was by hand, I honestly didn’t even realize the camera movement by hand after a while. But because of this, it made the film more realistic and not so structured to watch, which I’d say was enjoyable. “Breathless” wasn’t like the typical gangster movie we may watch now a days. There was a lot of day time in this film, in a typical gangster movie I would imagine night and darkness. It was a little confusing to understand if Patricia and Michael really liked each other or not. Although, it was obvious there was sexual attraction and flirting going on. There was just know definite truth whether they loved each other. The plot itself made it difficult to know what would happen next. When Patricia said she was pregnant, that really threw me off. At the end it was never talked about between them, so this left me thinking, was she even pregnant? It was kinda crazy to see someone smoking as much as Michael did and it was funny that he took one last puff before he past. When Michael was shot at the end of the film, it was interesting that he ran for as long as he did. What caught my attention was how Patricia wasn’t as upset as she should have been after his death or when he was shot.This leaves me confused on how she really feels. Overall, I did enjoy watching “Breathless” because it was unconventional and nothing like I have seen in the past.

  • Sarah Brooks

    I wasn’t really sure what to expect when we started talking about the French New Wave in class because all of the conventions that we talked about. I thought the hand held style of filming a scene would come off as unrealistic and not let me connect with what’s going on and feel like ‘m not just watching a movie. However, I really enjoyed the hand held shots in this film. It didn’t come off cheesy or poorly made to me at all, it was sort of unique and something you’re not used to seeing unless it’s in some typical “found footage” Paranormal Activity movie. I also really did enjoy the jump cuts even though some people found them annoying. In the beginning it really did take some getting used to the film, but once it progressed, I honestly think that the jump cut’s worked to its advantage. When Michele and Patricia are sitting in the taxi cab I thought it was hilarious when Goddard kept on jumping to when Michele said something because it always ended up being funny. This film really had so much about it that I didn’t expect to like but in the end genuinely caught my interest. I love how it sort of mock the way that American gangster films are made and how Humphrey Bogart was Michele’s hero and you could catch him mimicking things that he used to do throughout the movie. I lost count how many times Michele moves his thumb across his lips which was apparently a nervous habit of Humphrey Bogart. My absolute favorite scene of this entire film without a doubt had to be the final scene. When Michele get’s shot in the back and tries to run down the street, it took a lot longer than I expected for him to fall to the ground and die which made it so hilarious. Gangster films usually tend to do that like in the Godfather when of the Corleone’s get’s shot at the toll booth hundreds of times and he’s still able to walk and have a two minute extremely dramatic death scene. I think that Michele had one of the best “last lines” I have ever heard. Patricia and Michele have one of the weirdest relationships i’ve seen in a film before because I still couldn’t tell you if they actually did love each other. Especially when he said that she makes him want to vomit right before he dies and she rats him out to the police out of nowhere. I really did love the scene between the two of them in the hotel room because you never get to see characters like that, just having a normal conversation. I would really like to get to see that in more movies nowadays, I mean connecting with the characters is important to a lot of audiences and seeing them on just a normal day is a nice change of pace because it makes them more human. Breathless was probably the most unique film i’ve seen when it comes to different kinds of shots and characters, and I will definitely be watching this again.

    • michaelgloversmith

      If seeing people have a “normal conversation” is something you want to see in more movies, you should definitely consider taking my Perspectives on Film class in the spring. The first half will be devoted to studying the French New Wave and the second half will be devoted to studying American films influenced by the New Wave.

  • Kevin Yoo

    Watching “Breathless” was one of the most unusual films I have ever watched but rather than it being weird and boring it was quite interesting. I love Michel’c character because it is like he is stuck in this random era where most people do not understand his jokes or his witty comments. The hand held shot were the best part of this film as if you were seeing through the character’s point of view of just a third person party watching next to them. One of the great examples of French New Wave that i particularly enjoyed was when Michel first steals the car in the beginning and heads for the road. He talks to the camera realizing that a film is being shot and is very witty and cocky with his comments. I think that this helps with the plot of the film and how French New Wave incorporates techniques and ideas. The one thing that i really enjoyed about this film was Michel’s unawareness of consequences. He seemed like life was free and death was not upon him no matter what he did. Michel steals money from people, cars , and murders but goes about life like it was just another normal day. The last scene is really odd because after Michel is shot it takes a long time for the film to conclude that he dies. I believe that this was a great way of expressing an idea by Goddard because it shows the humor that he has as Michel carelessly stumbles to his death. overall I thought Breathless was a good film with great hand held movement and character portrayal.

  • Paul Chiero

    Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless was first produced in the year 1960. The style of filmmaking he used along with his “master cinematographer” Raoul Coutard made Breathless a very interesting film to watch for a variety of reasons. First of all, I say “master cinematographer” sarcastically because nowadays basically anyone could capture the same shots equally as well, if not better, thanks to the introduction of filmmaking to young people across the world via television and the relatively new revolutionizing website known as YouTube and an amazing advancement in video cameras that most of us walk around with in our pockets. I liked the free hand style of filming on scene just like they did with the movie “Bicycle Thieves”. However, I found the jump-cut to be more annoying than anything else. I know it is done on purpose to keep the audiences attention but if the story was good enough in the first place they would not need to use any “special” techniques. In my opinion, the only good thing that came out of the “jump-cut” style of the movie is that it made the whole thing shorter. I guess it is the critic or the American in me that caused me not to enjoy this movie as much as my fellow classmates but I can see where they are coming from. The dialogue they use in some scenes including the super long hotel scene reminded me of a modern day Vince Vaughn movie because he can just go on rants about anything, regardless of what is happening concerning the plot of the movie, and people will love it just because a wide range of people have grown accustomed to Vaughn’s style of comedic dialogue. Seeing an old school movie like Breathless break the fourth wall was probably one of the more interesting things about this movie along with watching Michel trying to be (or even possibly mocking?) an American Gangster. Breaking the fourth wall reminds me of shows like The Office and Malcolm in the Middle when the main character sort of “steps out” of scene and addresses the audience directly. Reading blurry subtitles while following the jump-cut style action of Breathless is just a headache waiting to happen for anyone used to watching modern movies but could also be a nice little cinematic adventure back in time for anyone who is into old foreign films.

    “To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.”
    ― Aristotle

    • michaelgloversmith

      Well, the blurry subtitles were a failing of the school’s projection system, not the filmmakers. But I would argue that your inability to appreciate the film’s still-radical innovations represents a failure of imagination on your part. Don’t presume that your own opinions on BREATHLESS are in line with “anyone used to watching modern movies.” Most of your classmates, none of whom are into “old foreign films” really enjoyed this.

  • Matthew Maka

    The movie breathless explains the movie itself in the title. The main character Michel is always breathless, though out the movie he is looking for his price Patricia. He is also running from the police because in the being of the movie he kills one so he doesn’t get caught for grand thief auto. I really enjoyed this movie because it takes you on a journey of a thief of cars, cash, and of course a one of a kind ladies man. This movie was a part of the French New wave but i though it was a little similar to the film noir era. The reason i assumed this was all the action, darkness, and smoking. The smoking was nonstop, Michel was lighting a cigarette every second. He would light one with the one he finishs. Also in this movie there is a auteur theory that i believe Michel goes by, which is the poster he looks at. Michel believes he is a hard core gangster. Besides the plot of the movie being excellent, also the editing was done well. I really enjoyed the hand held shots because you fell that you are running right behind that person in the shot. It almost fells as if I was in the movie and filming a documentary of Michel’s day and life. I really enjoyed this style and i fell clover filed a modern day movie copied the idea form breathless. I also really like the use of jump cuts in this movie. The reason is that it would cut to the important things. For example when they were in the cab and Michel is tell the cabby how to drive. The since skip for different location of Paris and Michel making another rude comment. I though all the jump cuts followed with the scenes and make the movie better because it would basically cut out the boring long cab ride and other dialogue. Breathless was a great movie to watch and i recommend it too all. I love all the editing that the film makers did like the jump cuts, the beautiful filming of on spot location, and my favorite was the causal humor. The most funny causal humor was when Michel takes his last breath on earth after he gets shot, he blow out cigarettes smoke and says Patricia you make want to puke. this by far make the film for me and was one of the funniest scene throughout the film.

  • Krystian Swierk

    Breathless definitely stands out from all of the movies that we have watched in this class. There is no doubt that the style is experimental and innovative. The free style of filming captured unedited streets of Paris filled with unaware people of being recorded. It sometimes felt as watching a documentary of MTV series which could be called “Paris Shore”. Main character resembled all of the aspect of wild, and rapid lifestyle which would fit perfectly.
    The aspect of jump-cuts at first got me confused. It felt awkward watching a scene and seeing a shot which did not fit in there by all means. For example: scene where Michael was sitting in the car with the mechanic and the next shot showed him in driver’s seat without other character. It got me super confused. However, as the movie went on I adapted to this new change. It also made me think how much work is involved into smooth transitions between the shots, so audience would not be “aware” they are watching a movie.
    Making fun of Hollywood films especially at the end created an unexpected twist. In one of the last scenes where Michael is expecting the police and is betrayed by Patricia he doesn’t run. Instead he justifies the need of rest, and end of constant running. As the action moved from the apartment to streets of Paris, it was expected by audience to see the run away; yet, it didn’t happen. All we saw was a hysterical (at least for me) death of Michael. As soon as he picked up the gun, he got shot and ran/walked of a style of drunk marathoner. Audience would not see this in any of Hollywood movies. Also, where he breaths out the last words to Patricia “You make me want to puke” and closes the eyes with HIS OWN HANDS! I found this scene extremely funny.

  • pazmino776

    Great blog! I really liked how you described in great detail in how Godard purposely made the film the way he did because of meaning behind. To what the normal movie viewer would see as mistakes, you saw and studied the bigger picture and meaning behind these seemingly accidental hiccups in the film, but actually were put there on puspose. Your blog makes me want to go back and see all the movies that have these kinds of tendencies in many films that I have watched in the pas and all the self-reflexivity films that many modern film directors have adopted. See you in class!

  • Marta Reitmajer

    I think the reason why the movie Breathless is so influential was because Jean-Luc Godard decided to break the rules of traditional cinema with the jump-cuts, self-reflexivity, and the use of a handheld camera. We see it quite a lot nowadays, but back in the 1950’s it was revolutionary and Godard started it all. The movie isn’t just about the plot, it’s more about the innovative cinematography that’s why we watched and learned about this film in our film class because, after all, it’s part of the history of cinema.
    Personally, I loved the movie because it was French and I’m fascinated with everything that’s French, including the language, which just sounds so sophisticated. Seeing the streets of Paris the way they really were in the 1950’s with real people strutting around in their chic and glamorous outfits and seeing all the cafes was fascinating. Like you mentioned, shooting the movie Breathless on location gave the film that documentary value, which is why it’s such a great movie because we can all learn a little history about France in the 1950’s.

  • Mary Amala

    Jean-Luc Godard made the movie Breathless a very unique movie in his own way by using the hand held camera movements, jump-cuts and self reflexivity. Right now we see these in plenty of movies, but back then it must have made a huge impact in the film industry. When i thought the movie is based on a gangster who steals the cars, i was thinking of a more serious film with little humor. But throughout this movie made me laugh. Especially at the end when he is about to die and he is still smoking. I have never seen such a hilarious ending before. I also loved how Paris was captured in this movie in 1960. Paris looked absolutely beautiful with all the people around and the stores. I really loved the main characters, but i never thought that Patricia would leave Michel at the end even though she knows that she is pregnant with his kid. I also didn’t understand the part where Michel do a smile, big mouth and frown. I absolutely loved this film with all its new techniques.

  • ryan goese

    You can tell that this movie was made by a young director who wanted to leave his mark on the industry. Godard broke the rules, and he broke them hard. In fact, he broke them too hard in my opinion. For example, let’s take the jump-cuts. After hearing Mr. Smith’s explanation that his jump-cuts are a sort of fast-forward-to-the-important-part type thing, rather than to just visually dissonate the viewer. But for me, that is exactly what happened. My brain rejected the jump cuts and I found myself shaking my head every time there was one.
    There were lots of ambiguous shots that didn’t do anything for the plot and were never addressed again. My favorite example of this is when Michel is wearing sunglasses lying down. The camera shows his face, and then the next time the camera shows his face (it is only for a split-second) he is missing one lens on his sunglasses. In the next shot of him with the sunglasses, the lens was there and we were left with absolutely no explanation. I like these ambiguous shots, the kept me on my toes.
    Though some may find Michel madly in love with Patricia, it seemed to me that she was just his American girl there for his use and disposal at will. Unfortunately for Michel, he ended up being the one that got disposed of by her. Although they talk about being in love, for some reason I can’t get past the way Michel uses her (to steal the Cadillac and such) and how easily Patricia gives him up. I think it was a relationship built on infatuation, and once they were living each other’s daily lives it became too much and they both got selfish.

    • michaelgloversmith

      I think Godard DID want to “visually dissonate” the viewer, as you say. Although I guess in a way it’s good that someone breaking the rules of classical editing in 1960 can cause viewers as much discomfort today as when the film first came out.

  • Taha Husain

    Watching Breathless was a real eye opener to understand cinema from an all new perspective. Jean Luc- Godard directed it. Godard directed a movie that was the most unique for its time. He used conventions and techniques that made Breathless planted in our memories for the long haul.
    One of the techniques he used among several others was Jump Cuts. Although at first the technique was a bit abrupt and absurd, it helped speed up the movie and make it a lot more enjoyable to me. My favorite Jump Cut from the movie is when they’re in the cab and Michel is yelling a the driver for not driving fast enough and letting others past by him. This was very comedic in itself. Jump Cuts quite often allowed and added comedic flare to the movie.
    In addition, I agree with your point that by juxtaposing real life elements and movie elements together reflects his playful and intellectually provocative spirit of director Godard. I believe the juxtaposition, also helps audience connect to the movie on a more personal level than it would with most other movies. For me, it allowed me at several occasions feel empathy for Michel because I could relate to his emotions. An example of this is when at the end when Michel says he doesn’t want to run anymore and give up. I could connect because of situations in which I have felt like running away, but realizing that running away from the problem isn’t help me achieve anything.
    I agree with you also in regards to the fact that it is a movie that is an exemplary for introducing one to a new film medium, and making them fall in love with it. Breathless is a great movie as a whole, it has made me intrigued to watch more French New Wave movies and fall in love with unconventional techniques and conventions.

  • Tommy Davis

    I thought “Breathless” was a very enjoyable movie that had hidden beauty within the frames. Jean- Paul Belmondo who played Michel Poiccard in the film was the perfect person for the part. Something about his facial features and the faces he made during the film will make me never forget his face or character He was also chain smoking cigarettes the entire movie, I believe he is smoking all the time because he is very nervous that police are going to catch him and the smoke is visually stunning with the black and white film. Michel wants to be as tough as the badass movie stars he has seen on the big screen, so he dresses the part and acts like a criminal with no thought of the consequences.

    The director of the film “Jean-Luc” Godard used many filming technics to disturbed audiences when this film came out. He used a lot of jump cuts in his film that audiences thought was sloppy during the time, but we now realize that Godard did it on purpose to try and cut out dead time throughout the film. My favorite jump-cut scene is when Michel and his American girlfriend “Patricia” are riding in a taxi, and Michel is bitching and complaining about the old man taxi drivers driving skills. It jumps from insult to Michel telling him what to do in a very humorous matter, I believed it worked best in that situation because their is no point to showing a whole cab ride from one destination to another. Godard does a great job turing a normal taxi ride into a very comical and historic scene.

  • Maria Avina

    Breathless is a unique film in which it portrayed great tracking shots, handheld camera movements, casual humor and self-reflexivity. I loved how the film had causal humor incorporated within the film. For example, every time Michel slapped or grabbed Patricia’s ass, Patricia would slap him on the face. This scene was funny and great because words or dialogues weren’t needed to be said in order for the scene to be funny. Also, I thought the scene where Michel got shot and fell to the ground until he had reached the end of the road was funny. Usually when people get shot they fall to the ground right away, but in his case it took him forever. I found the jumping shots to be quite annoying. Although the jump shots did remind me that I was watching a film, the jump shots ruined my concentration on what was going on in the film. I would have preferred if Godard would have left out the jump shots. I enjoyed the hand held camera that Godard had incorporated in the film. It was something different and unique to look at. The handheld camera movements made me feel as if I was part of the film. I loved Michel’s acting. From the way he walked to the sound of voice in the film. Overall, I liked the plot of the movie and its self-reflexivity. However, I wished the jump cuts would have been avoided.

  • syed ahmed

    breathless is a great film because of how the director did not traditionally film tactics. the director had the actors sometimes actually speak toward the camera that made it seem as if they were speaking directly to the audience. The film also is great because of all the comedic action involving the main character Michel, stealing money from people in bathrooms and also stealing cars in broad daylight.

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