Breathless (1959)


After all is said and done, I *think* I knew what the title refers to...maybe
After all is said and done, I *think* I know what the title refers to...maybe

Genre: Romance Crime Drama (France)

Starring: Jean-Paul Belmondo (Pierrot le fou  Two Women), Jean Seberg (Airport Paint Your Wagon)

Directed By: Jean-Luc Godard (Masculin Féminin  Alphaville)

Overview: A thief, a rogue and a murderer, Michel pursues Patricia, a sweet young American girl in gay Paris in hopes of getting her to join him on the lam in Rome.

"I am after all, an asshole"

The first words of Jean-Luc Godard's first feature film really is one of those lines that draws you in right away, and even if you're not a fan of the French nouvelle vague style, it certainly introduces our cad of an anti-hero in a wonderful flourish.

Breathless is the story of Michel Poiccard, played by Godard mainstay Jean-Paul Belmondo. He's a car thief, a prick, a petty thief and a bit of a chauvenist. One of his many lady friends is Patricia Franchini, played by the gorgeous Jean Seberg. She's a twenty-year-old American working for the New York Herald Tribune with plans of studying journalism at the Sorbonne. After Michel is chased by the police for stealing a car, he kills a cop and heads back to Paris in hopes of convicing his "pretty-much-a-girlfriend" Patricia to run away with him to Rome. Most of the film's themes focus on the two of them and their burgeoning relationship. When we focus on Michel, we explore his daily chase for cash from those who owe him, Michel's laissez-faire and sometimes downright sexist attitude, his unromantic way with words, and of course his evasion from the police who seem to be ever closer to closing in on him every day he stays in town. Patricia's days are comprised of making industry contacts that some could consider 'dates', selling newspapers and debating Michel's advances. All this is done in the typical New Wave style, focussing on the everyday rather than relying heavily on the crime plot.

And this is what makes Breathless so interesting, at least from a film study perspective. Though some of Hollywood's Noir films have come close, I can't think of any Hollywood outfit dreaming of making a love-story-before-cop-killer-chase-story that includes an extended scene of a young couple in bed talking about everything and nothing. Michel is so cocky, his approach to the situation he's put himself in, Hell his approach to life in general, is pure overconfidence. Because of this, he acts like nothing is really all that wrong, which is a rather interesting perspective that shifts the whole expected focus of a plot revolving around a massive manhunt and becomes instead a character study of the microcosmic boy meets girl. With a well-written script and adding the beautiful and relaxed cinematography, you have in Breathless a film that is surprisingly refreshing.

... pretty sure it's that hottie Jean Seberg
... pretty sure it's that hottie Jean Seberg

Performance: 8 Cinematography: 8 Script: 7 Plot: 8 Mood: 8

Overall Rating: 78% (Breath Easy)

I've never been a huge fan of the French New Wave, but breathless gives me hope that there'll be more like these in my future, especially given that Godard's Pierrot le fou, Masculin Féminin and Alphaville are all on my 1001 to see list. 

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