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"It's sad to fall asleep. It separates people. Even when you're sleeping together, you're all alone."
-- Patricia Franchini in Breathless


breathless_2.jpg (7925 bytes)The story begins in Marseilles. Michel Poicard (Jean-Paul Belmondo), a young hoodlum, steals a car to go to Paris. He is pursued by a policeman on a motorcycle, whom he shoots dead with a gun he finds in the glove compartment. In Paris, Michel steals money from a friend to go off and find Patricia (Jean Seberg), an American girl who sells the Herald Tribune in the Champs-Elysées. He is in love with her and wants to take her to Rome. This film gave Belmondo his first big role and Jean Seberg is exquisite under Godard's direction.

breathless_3.jpg (7986 bytes)A Bout de Souffle, shot with bits and scraps of film on a very low budget, was the first official manifestation of the nouvelle vague, a style of cinema that emerged in France, in the period and was heavily inspired by what was being done in America. Godard threw away the rigidity of French conventions by using hand-held camera techniques and natural settings, giving his film a fluidity and a spontaneity in keeping with the life and character of his protagonist. The young Michel Poicard; dashing, daring, cynical and purile, is himself immersed in American culture (sporting his role-model Bogart's hat and look). The film pays deliberate homage to the films of Preminger and other contemporary directors of the film noir genre.

breathless_5.jpg (6240 bytes)The heroes banter, tell fibs and act silly. Yet the film is essentially about cowardliness, foreboding, betrayal and death on the prowl; on the difficulty of being who we pretend to be and even of knowing ourselves. In the void into which the youth of the times had fallen into, Godard could see only love to save them.

The love intrigue set aside, this is a great film about Paris and the spirit that reigned there at the time.

-- capsule taken in part from the Edinburgh University Film Society archives

Breathless [a bout de souffle] - Details

Made in: 1959
Genre: Crime / Drama / Romance
Filmed in: Black & White
Language: French
Length: 89min

Jean-Paul Belmondo 
Jean Seberg
Daniel Boulanger
Jean-Pierre Melville
Henri-Jacques Huet
Van Doude
Claude Mansard
Jean-Luc Godard
Richard Balducci
Roger Hanin
Jean-Louis Richard

Michel Poiccard aka Laszlo Kovacs
Patricia Franchini
Police Inspector
Antonio Berrutti
The Journalist
Claudius Mansard
An Informer
Cal Zombach
A Journalist

Directed by: Jean-Luc Godard
Writing credits: Jean-Luc Godard & François Truffaut
Produced by: Georges de Beauregard
Music by: Martial Solal
Cinematography by: Raoul Coutard
Production Design by: Claude Chabrol
Film Editing by: Cecile Decugis & Lila Herman