After murdering a policeman on a country road, a young criminal, Michel (Jean-Paul Belmondo), prepares to go on the run with his love interest—American journalist Patricia (Jean Seberg). One of the strongest debut features in film history, Breathless won Jean-Luc Godard a Silver Bear for the Best Director at the Berlin Film Festival and launched an incredible career that continues today.
Perhaps, less reflexive than Godard’s later films, Breathless was an innovative work that redefined his contemporaries’ ideas of what cinema could be—filmed over twenty-three days on a minuscule budget and not authorized by the police, with a wheelchair used as a trolley. The film became a legend—not only due to Godard himself but also to a host of star filmmakers of the French New Wave. The acclaimed cinematographer and Godard’s frequent collaborator in the years that followed, Raoul Coutard used film for still cameras spliced together into 120-meter rolls and doubled its sensitivity to film in low light, which produced a grainy effect. Godard co-wrote the script with François Truffaut at the start of each filming day, while Belmondo and Seberg improvised most of the dialogue. An already famous director at the time, Claude Chabrol, later known as the French Hitchcock for his social thrillers, was a production designer. The film features cameos by the father of the French New Wave Jean-Pierre Melville and one of its key representatives Jacques Rivette. The jump-cut technique, popularised by Breathless, was inspired by Jean Rouch's ethnofiction film Moi, un noir (1958).
A love letter to American popular culture and its radical deconstruction, Breathless proudly borrows from noir: Michel imitates Humphrey Bogart, Patricia is a femme fatale, and the story mimics a trashy novel.It is filled with paradoxes: an example of cinéma vérité with elliptical editing that time and again destroys the fourth wall. Godard’s debut work was later reflected in countless films on the nihilism of youth: from Bonnie and Clyde (1967) to The Doom Generation (1995) and The Dreamers (2003)—as well as an American remake starring Richard Gere (1983).
The film will be screened in French and English with Russian subtitles.
Director: Jean-Luc Godard
France, 1960. 90 min. 16+