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BREATHLESS (A Bout De Souffle) (director/writer: Jean-Luc Godard; screenwriter: from a story by François Truffaut; cinematographer: Raoul Coutard; editors: Cécile Decugis/Lila Herman; music: Martial Solal; cast: Jean-Paul Belmondo (Michel Poiccard), Jean Seberg (Patrice Franchini), Daniel Boulanger (Inspector), Jean-Pierre Melville (Parvulesco, celebrity novelist), Liliane David (Liliane), Henri-Jacques Huet (Antonio Berrutti), Van Doude (Journalist); Runtime: 89; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Georges de Beauregard; Criterion Collection, The; 1960-France-in French-with English subtitles)
“It’s energy over substance.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The first feature of former movie critic Jean-Luc Godard (“Made in USA”/”Pierrot Le Fou”/”A Woman Is a Woman”) is a classical chase film but because of its flashy filming techniques that include jump cuts, bouncing high culture off pulp (Mozart and jazz riffs) and its movie lore name dropping (for instance, the antihero’s name is Michel supposedly the son of the lovers in the Jean Vigo’s 1930s classic L’Atalante). It’s best known as an early influential film of the Nouvelle Vague. It was inspired from a story by François Truffaut. It’s much influenced by American gangster films and dedicated to Monogram’s B films, and is still regarded as a seminal work in the French New Wave.

The self-centered wannabe Humphrey Bogart, Michel Poiccard (Jean-Paul Belmondo), steals a car and kills a cop in Marseilles. He flees to Paris to be with Patricia Franchini (Jean Seberg), his on-off again cute boyish looking American girlfriend (Jean Seberg), who is a college student, is fond of quoting from literary books and hawks on the Champs-Elysées the NY Herald Tribune. He makes love with her in her hotel room and tries to talk the reluctant bitchy semi-intellectual to go on the run with him to Rome, but she’s not sure that she loves him and wants to stay in Paris to be a journalist. When a police dragnet begins to become close to Michel and they shuffle off to his friend’s house, she betrays him to the police with fatal results.

As the title indicates, this one leaves you breathless. It’s energy over substance. It made Frenchman Belmondo a superstar and revived the American Seberg’s career.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”