Breathless (À Bout de Souffle) Image

Breathless (À Bout de Souffle)

By Sabina Dana Plasse | May 5, 2021

Breathless was a low-budget movie, but the successful use of Paris as a character, not just a set and background, adds to its appeal. The filmmaker also makes many a reference to the material world that exists in Paris and how young people are so concerned with their vanity. They live life on their own terms and schedule. No one is rushing to be in an office, but they will make an effort to purchase a dress at Dior. It was ahead of its time because the director was reporting on era and place — another layer to the movie.

As a writer for Cahiers du Cinéma, a French film magazine, Godard was well-versed in French cinema and culture. He even places a very interesting scene with Patricia at a press function where love and life are being discussed, not very newsy but more poetic and very flirtatious and sexual. As his debut movie, Godard was able to apply all his creative senses into storytelling, allowing the film to become the pièce de résistance of the French New Wave. It ushered in a modern cinematic movement that influenced much of Hollywood’s golden age from the late 1960s through the 1970s with selfish and cold characters who had no allegiance and acted on their desires with their own purpose and zero shame. It was raw.

“…ahead of its time because the director was reporting on era and place…”

It also brings about other interesting changing cultural signifiers, including conversations about sex and how many partners one might have. This was still a taboo subject for 1960, especially for a young 20-year-old like Patricia. Both characters constantly admire themselves and talk about their sex lives and material possessions as if it was the norm—not far off from the influencer culture of 2021 except much more appealing in Paris, France, and with much more intellect, style, and creativity. Then there are the many references Godard uses and makes very apparent to counterculture thinkers and writers, including nods to William Faulkner and Dylan Thomas.

Breathless made my world when I first encountered it. Decades later, I still love it. Quoting Faulkner’s Wild Palms about grief is essential to the poetic license that Godard takes with the movie and is also reverberated through his characters and visuals. Ultimately, Patricia and Michel are people who will never be content. This theme and what makes Breathless a masterpiece along with its style is how Godard captures the overall malcontent, which still resonates with much of modern life as we know it and ultimately leaves us all breathless.

Breathless (À Bout de Souffle) screened as part of the 2021 TCM Classic Film Festival.

Breathless (À Bout de Souffle) (1960)

Directed: Jean-Luc Godard

Written: Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut

Starring: Jean Seberg, Jean Belmondo, Daniel Boulanger, etc.

Movie score: 10/10

Breathless (À Bout de Souffle) Image

"…the pièce de résistance of the French New Wave."

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