A Bout De Souffle - Breathless

"Are you afraid of getting old? I am." Patricia

"Are you afraid of getting old? I am." Patricia

☆☆☆☆☆ Masterpiece

A Bout De Souffle - Breathless (1960) There was before Breathless and there was after Breathless.

Directed by Jean-Luc Godard.

Starring Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg.

With one brilliant editing idea to solve an overly long film, Godard ushered in the modern movie era with its revolutionary use of "Jump Cuts" (a cut in a moment within a scene, regardless of continuity to the scene or next moment within the edited scene).

Godard was not satisfied with the long version of the Breathless and his  asked mentor, Jean-Pierre Melville (who's film, Bob Le Flambeur (1956) had influenced his own film making aspirations)). Melville is considered the Godfather of The French New Wave, of which, (Breathless is one of the key films) for advice. Jean-Pierre suggested to Godard that he should cut scenes entirely, including his own (Melville plays the writer who is interviewed by Jean Seberg's character). Godard in a flash of inspired genius created the cut within scenes or "Jump Cuts". Melville is said to have declared the cuts, "Excellent" and the modern film was born. Breathless is to cinema what Marlon Brando is to modern acting.

Jean-Paul Belmondo is what makes Breathless, so... Breathless. Belmondo is playful, arrogant, but above all a likable killer. My only gripe with Godard's film, is that he doesn't properly explain, visually to the audience Belmondo's signature character trait(the swiping of his thumb across his lips). My first, second and third viewings of Breathless left me erroneously blaming Belmondo. I have a Method Acting background that requires me as an actor to fully express any and all character actions in a way that audience members can easily comprehend and or relate. As audience member I knew the action was  somehow related to Humphrey Bogart and his movies. Belmondo's character was constantly quoting from and trying to emulate Bogie's fictional persona in his own life. It wasn't until I researched Humphrey Bogart and discovered that Bogie had a natural tick which caused him to swipe his lips with his thumb. With this new insight I watched Belmondo's work again and discovered that it was Godard at fault for me as an audience member not being able to understand Belmondo's swipe. What Godard had needed was a scene from a film where Bogie swiped his lips and Belmondo imitated this action silently in a movie theater. Godard does have Belmondo swipe his lips with his thumb, as he looks at Humphrey's movie poster outside a movie theater, but I as a modern audience member, who has never observed Bogart do his natural tick in a movie could not put the two together on my own. What is strange is that when Jean's character rubs her thumb across her lips at the end of the film as an audience member, I immediately understood that Jean's character had taken on Belmondo's persona.

In the scene below, there are no "Jump Cuts", but there are "Jump Cuts" within the overall larger apartment scene that this scene is a part of. The scene below really captures the incredible chemistry between Belmondo and Seberg. They are both mesmerizing to watch.

One last point about Breathless, is that it truly is a film made by a collaborative team. It's the collaboration between director, actors, cinematographer and editors. It was made as they went along. Godard would write new scenes and give them in the morning to the actors and everyone involved would contribute as they shot it. This is a great film, that looks as good today as anything Quentin Tarantino makes. Enjoy!

Trivia - Godard fed the actors their lines as he was filming. To give their performances more spontaneity.