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Breathless (The Criterion Collection) (1961)

Jean-Paul Belmondo , Jean Seberg , Jean-Luc Godard  |  NR |  DVD
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (134 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jean Seberg
  • Directors: Jean-Luc Godard
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Dolby, Full Screen, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: English, French
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • DVD Release Date: October 23, 2007
  • Run Time: 90 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (134 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #87,684 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Breathless (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

Product Description

There was before Breathless, and there was after Breathless. With its lack of polish, surplus of attitude, crackling personalities of rising stars Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg, and anything-goes crime narrative, Jean-Luc Godard's debut fashioned a simultaneous homage to and critique of the American film genres that influenced and rocked him as a film writer for Cahiers du cinema. Jazzy, free-form, and sexy, Breathless (A bout de souffle) helped launch the French new wave and ensured cinema would never be the same.

Additional Features

The original trailer exclaims that Breathless is "The best film on the screen today!" Thanks to the Criterion Collection, the tragicomic tale of "the nice man" (Jean-Paul Belmondo) and "the pretty girl" (Jean Seberg) is one of the best films on DVD today. Along with the trailer and a restored high-definition transfer (approved by cinematographer Raoul Coutard), this special edition offers interviews past and present, video essays, an 80-minute documentary, a short subject, and a wealth of reading material. Disc one features interviews recorded for French television between 1960 and 1964. In his first of two appearances, Godard laments that "audiences trust me too much... simply because I made a popular film," and hopes his follow-up, Le Petit Soldat, will flop (he got his wish). Belmondo confirms that the dialogue was written on the spot, while Seberg, who died in 1979, credits Marlon Brando for inspiring her to act. The period conversations conclude with Bob le Flambeur's Jean-Pierre Melville, who describes himself as a "big brother" to the nouvelle vague filmmakers.

On the second disc, Coutard and assistant director Pierre Rissient relive the making of the movie, followed by direct cinema pioneer D.A. Pennebaker dissecting its documentary aspects. In their video essays, Mark Rappaport (From the Journals of Jean Seberg) explores the life of the actress, while writer Jonathan Rosenbaum looks at Breathless as a form of criticism. The digital extras end with 1993's Chambre 12, Hôtel de Suède, Claude Ventura's made-for-TV doc and Godard's playful short Charlotte et son Jules. The 80-page booklet contains an essay from author Dudley Andrew, a selection of Godard statements, and François Truffaut's script treatment accompanied by Godard's adaptation. As Melville states, Breathless was "a film of exceptional charm and grace." The same could be said of this lovingly compiled boxed set. --Kathleen C. Fennessy

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
54 of 58 people found the following review helpful
François Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Claude Chabrol, Jacques Rivette and Eric Rohmer were film connoisseurs, who all worked as movie critics for the same magazine. Between the years 1958 to 1964, this group transitioned into filmmaking, and, along with other directors, such as Agnés Varda, Jean-Pierre Melville and Louis Malle, ushered in the French New Wave Movement, (Nouvelle Vague). Their background in film theory and criticism was a major factor in motivating these artists to create a bold new cinema.

Jean-Luc Godard's first feature, "Breathless," was released in 1960, introducing the New Wave and changing cinema forever. Godard used jump cuts, handheld cameras, zoom lenses and a new editing style to take the viewer places never ventured before. No artificial, glossy stage sets in this movie. Along with the protagonists, we travel up and down small side streets, into local bars and sidewalk cafes, across boulevards and, for inconsequential moments, brush the lives of passers-by, who have nothing to do with the screenplay, but always play a role in our daily comings and goings. The fragmented rhythm of modern life is translated here. Godard used sound in the same way, adding street noises, bits of conversations and music to add to the movie's authenticity and pace. This was indeed innovative at the time. And it still holds up. Watching "Breathless" forty-five years after its debut, 21st century technology does not detract from its dynamism or relevance in the slightest. In fact, with each viewing, I find the film every bit as exciting and poignant as I did the first time.

Jean-Paul Belmondo plays the feckless, foul-mouthed car thief, anti-hero and Humphrey Bogart fan, Michel Poiccard.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb, influential French New Wave thriller October 5, 2001
Godard's "Breathless" (or "Out of Breath," the correct translation fo the title) still feels fresh and alive, especially when viewed in the dreary context of contemporary Hollywood cinema. It offers a sparklingly original alternative at every turn, from the pacing of its story to the engine that drives its loopy, intentionally sloppy plot. This is a picture that is alive on screen as you watch it, forcing you to draw yourself into the action rather than lay back and passively absorb it.
The film is one of the finest examples of New Wave cinema, from its jump cuts, its depiction of Parisian life, its incredibly sustained sequences of pure converstaion and dialogue, all of which dominate what is essentially a simple chase picture.
Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg are a perfect mix of classic and contemporary, both remaining timeless. Their relationship really unfolds in the film's central sequence, a near 25-minute conversation in Seberg's bedroom, in which such subjects as Faulkner and fornication are explored aptly. And that is what the film is known for----when was the last time a thriller contained the audacity to feel free to explore areas residing outside the genre?
Like "Pulp Fiction," one of its distant relatives, this is a film where plot and story are present but removed far into the background, while character, dialogue and visual texture are placed in the foreground. In its pristine black-and-white cinematography, its innovative use of camera movement and position, its raw, defined performances, and its tireless style and visual invention, "Breathless" is a great film and belongs in any serious film lover's video library.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant - Godard Broke New Ground For Cinema... March 27, 2005
Numerous reviews, essays, and books have dedicated much thought and contemplative work on Jean-Luc Godard's film Breathless. So where does one begin this review knowing that many have already dissected his film? Perhaps, we should try to understand why this film has received so much commotion.

Contemplating the society when Breathless was shot and comparing it with our current society might not be the best approach. It is also silly to think that a young audience will get all the references to older films, which Breathless intends to shove aside with a refreshing style. For example, jump cuts are something that today's youth have seen millions of times. If people watch MTV or any other television channel they will see the infamous jump cut in action in both recorded and live format. So why bother watching Breathless? Well, to fully appreciate Breathless the audience should watch films from France and the rest of the world that were made before, let's say in 1955. In this way the audience will build an idea of how stiff and structured films were without much visual surprise, which big production companies still depend on occasionally as they use them as a safety net in fear of having a bomb at the box office. 

Breathless is actually a refreshing breath of a new wave that hit the world of the cinema in the 1960s. This fresh idea helped develop film and cinema into what it is today, and this is why Breathless is such an important film. The film broke the cinematic rules that were in use by the production companies. For example, Godard wrote his shooting script during his morning coffee while probably inhaling his nicotine fumes, scenes where not rehearsed and the idea of how to frame a shot came though the motion and the making of the film.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Film
This is a fantastic film. Breathless put Jean Luc Godard on the map with his innovative editing (jump-cuts) and camera work. Read more
Published 13 days ago by Steve R
4.0 out of 5 stars Too dated to truly amaze, but still an entertaining and memorable film
A key film of the late Fifties/early Sixties French New Wave, À BOUT DE SOUFFLE (Breathless) opens with suave lowlife Michel Poiccard (Jean-Paul Belmondo) stealing a car. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Christopher Culver
2.0 out of 5 stars Almost Worthless
There is no "real" plot or action, and the dialogue is corny and inarticulate. The only suspense was wondering whether Jean Paul Belmondo was going to smoke himself to... Read more
Published 3 months ago by James gabler
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
One of the greatest love tragedies of all time! I love this film and its sizzling style!
Published 3 months ago by Nathan Auldridge
1.0 out of 5 stars Missing Scene?
Seems to missing nudity scene. I have found this to be this case in several other movies as well such as The Rounders.
Published 4 months ago by robert j white
4.0 out of 5 stars An early peak of the French New Wave
Truffaut and Goddard working together: what more do you need to know?

In keeping with the ideas of cinema verite, some of this was shot live on the streets: those people... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Gregg Howard
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic French New Wave
The film that put Jean-Luc Godard on the map. Improves with age as you realize the filmmakr's intentionality behind every shot and cut.
Published 6 months ago by M. T. Smith
2.0 out of 5 stars WHERES RICHARD?
I BOUGHT this hoping it was the really REALLY BAD YANK FLICK.
Published 6 months ago by gcd
1.0 out of 5 stars couldn't play it
the video would not play in my DVD recorder/player (Sony). It brought up a notice that the locale code would not allow it to play. Read more
Published 7 months ago by bear
3.0 out of 5 stars Style over Substance
"Breathless" is the film that's been remembered as breaking in the French New Wave cinematic movement. Read more
Published 9 months ago by B. Adducchio
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