61 of 66 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. Just a few minutes after the opening credits conclude, Michel's status changes from small-time hood to cop killer. His life's plans alter drastically as he becomes a hunted fugitive. Michel remains cool enough, however, to visit an old girlfriend and steal some money. Bogart would have been proud - not of the theft, but of the style. Michel spots gamine-like American, Patricia Franchini, (the lovely Jean Seberg), selling copies of the Herald Tribune on the Champs-Elysees, and pursues her, with roguish smiles and moody pouts. He curses her and moves off fast, though, when she gives him a hard time. He likes his women more enthusiastic. Instead of getting out of town fast, Michel hangs with fellow thugs and steals more cars.
Patricia is an enigmatic character, who occasionally startles with her observations and revelations. Twenty years-old, with the naive face of an angel, she seems to have no direction or goals in life. She studies at the Sorbonne and says she wants to write, but is oddly detached. She shuns commitment. She does occasional odd jobs for the newspaper, but appears to live in a dream world. Of course Patricia winds up with Michel and together they gallivant around the gorgeous streets of Paris, as if they haven't a care in the world. Patricia does have at least one problem, however - she might be pregnant. Together the couple attempts to collect on a debt to raise enough cash to escape to Italy.
Godard captures incredibly intimate moments between the two lovers, particularly in one lengthy, extremely realistic bedroom episode, filled with small talk, tenderness, petty cruelties, eroticism, mind games, childhood memories shared and loneliness. At the scene's end we have a better understanding of the self destructive individuals who make-up this twosome. A sense of burgeoning doom, which has hovered in the background all along, begins to increase here. Michel's bravado also escalates with the level of danger and, to his credit, he remains true to his idol, Bogart, to the end. The conclusion boggles the mind, at least it has always impacted me emotionally in a major way.
Belmondo is brilliant as the restless thief, in this, his first film role. He reminds me of a French James Dean. Seberg is convincing and fresh. This is a dynamic film, witty, fast-paced, romantic and disturbing. It has long been a favorite of mine.
25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on 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.
27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on 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. Cinematography used handheld cameras a long time before it became common through lightweight cameras. Contempt was expressed in regards to meticulous lighting. The filmmakers tossed the old ways out through the window and began to create a new form of visual expression, which was only a natural progress for cinema just as art has advanced through history.
Breathless takes place in Paris where Michel Poiccard (Jean-Paul Belmondo) seeks refuge in the masses after having killed a traffic policeman in a moment of fear. Wanted and hunted Michel takes short cuts to find money by stealing money from old girlfriends and trying to get back old debts, money Michel needs in order to leave the country. However, he has also made new acquaintance in Paris that infatuate him, the beautiful American Patricia Franchini, a Iowan girl by the name of Jean Seberg who sought refuge in France after a couple of box office bombs in United States. Michel seeks Patricia as a means to find shelter and possibly affection.
The chemistry between the Michel and Patricia generates a certain mystique, as Patricia always seems to be full of astonishing revelations. For example, she tells out of the blue that she is pregnant and that she requires her freedom. Michel on the other hand is an uncomplicated guy with a tough façade that he seems to borrow through his hero Humphrey Bogart--style he mimics by having a constant cigarette that is hanging of either one lip or squeezed in between. The character's differences could maybe be a result of the individual styles of acting, but also on Godard's rejuvenating style of directing. This mystique keeps lingering in the air through the cinematography and the performances of the actors.
Regardless of how the mystique is generated, the film provides a wonderful cinematic experience, as it is full of surprises and leaves the audience in a breathtaking, yet quirky visual journey. This further evolves on how Godard makes the film a little more interesting in a cerebral way in regards to cinema. For example, Godard efficiently uses the director Jean-Pierre Melville, to perform as a famous writer that Patricia interviews while Michel uses one of Melville's films, Bob le Flambeur (1955), as a reference of who would pay a debt. Ultimately, the audience has experienced an interesting cinematic expedition through Breathless, especially in a historical perspective. The story is not intricate, yet it is the simplicity that Godard employs that makes this film so wonderful.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on October 30, 2007
First off, if you consider yourself any kind of film buff and if you haven't seen Breathless, shame on you. Not only is it #1 on my personal favorite films life, but i also consider it one of the 5 most important films ever made in cinema history. In short, it is a film worth owning on DVD.
I had been petitioning for Criterion to release this title in their collection for years and it finally happened-- Breathless has been done justice. And I must say that my expectations for this Criterion release were greatly surpassed; it is by far the best Criterion DVD i own.
Amazon seems to agree with the release's quality as it has ranked this edition of Breathless as 94 in their Essential 100 DVD's.
Here's what makes this release so good:
+ The new transfer. beautiful. it is clear and the image has excellent contrast. i noticed details in the film that i had never noticed before in my crusty Fox-Lorber edition. Same goes for the sound transfer.
+ Packaging. I love the box are and packaging. the 2-disc set comes with a pretty thick book of essays and interviews that are all very informative and examine the film from a number of perspectives.
+ Special Features. I dont know of any other dvd release of a classic film that has such comprehensive special features. i had considered myself somewhat of an authority on breathless... that is until i watched every available feature on this edition and realized that there was so much i didnt know! although all of the features are great, the best one was the documentary, Chambre 12, Hotel de Suede, an 80 minute piece that if probably the most comprehensive body of info on the film that ive ever come across.
I highly recommend this new release. In my opinion, you cant go wrong with this film, or with this definitive DVD release.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on March 16, 2003
This is hands-down one of the best movies ever made. Just the opening seconds of Jean-Paul Belmondo smoking announces a whole new attitude towards youth and life that hits with the freshness of the Beatles. "Breathless" creates a world of love and motion and danger and art that's single-handedly responsible for at least half the clichés you have in your head this second about Paris. Truffaut's script is excellent, nearly every shot is original and revelatory, but what I loved most about the movie was the apparently random, documentary feel Godard gave to so many of the scenes: Belmondo with one lens missing from his glasses, the faces he and Jean Seberg make in the mirror, the Air France clerk sticking her tongue out at her boss, etc. How did Godard manage to be so stylish and truthful at the same time? This is a movie that never lets you forget it's a movie, telling a story in a way no novel or play ever could. "Citizen Kane" is the only other film I can think of that does so much with the medium. One for the ages.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on January 15, 2003
More than forty years later, it may be hard for modern audiences to understand how revolutionary Jean-Luc Godard and his Nouvelle Vague (French New Wave) contemporaries really were. So many aspects of Godard's stylistic achievements, such as the unabashedly hand-held camera, have become so popular in music videos, TV, and the movies, that its use here may not seem notable. Film critic David Sterritt's commentary track does an excellent job of conveying the importance of this first feature-length Godard opus, and also emphasizes the many ways in which the director is having fun with his audience. As Sterritt demonstrates, Godard uses what he has enjoyed from his life as a lover of movies to deliver a filmgoing experience that contains the humor and action that he enjoys. Godard lingers on the lengthy interactions between Breathless' two young actors, allowing us all to savor their intimacy, and also uses Brechtian self-conscious techniques to encourage the viewer to stop and consider his filmic experience. Breathless is a great introduction to Godard, much more accessible to current American audiences than his later work. Watch the movie first, then watch it again with the excellent commentary track.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Breathless, as a movie, is a delight. And David Sterritt's commentary on this DVD is the perfect accompaniment. He obviously loves this film, loves its characters, its actors, its quirky little devices, its big philosophical themes. He delights in everything about it, and I can't imagine anyone failing to be swept along with his enthusiasm.
Furthermore, the visual quality of this disk is excellent. Breathless was originally shot on 16mm film, but many of the scenes on this restored recording look as sharp, clear, and beautifully lit as B&W still photographs by Edward Weston.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on January 24, 2006
A movie more famous for style than substance, though it set the movie world on its head. A third-rate hood in Paris (Jean-Paul Belmondo), who thinks he's Bogart, steals a car, then kills the policeman who pulls him over. Now on the lam he goes to his girlfriend (Jean Seberg) and asks her to hide him until he can collect some money owed him from a previous job; after that he tells her they will go to Rome. But Seberg is as empty, soul-less, and finally ruthless as he is, and at the end she turns him in to the police.
But it's the way Goddard relates the story that had everyone ga-ga over this movie masterpiece: he presented new ways of viewing his material - fast-cutting, imaginative camera angles, a total breakdown of time and space, no transitions. His idea was to give the impression of "living in the moment." There are some memorable scenes, especially the bedroom scene with Belmondo and Seberg discussing art and philosophy and the final shot of Seberg, but at times it's very hard to relate to these two conscienceless, amoral characters; I know it's all about alienation and impetuosity, but whew!
The location photography on the streets of Paris is superb and set another precedent for New Wave filmmaking. Excellent too is the musical score (part jazz, part classical). It's an extremely influential movie, groundbreaking and revolutionary, though some of it's most creative techniques (jump-cutting, for example) have become second nature today.
22 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on October 24, 2002
*Breathless* is a cornerstone for any cineaste's video library. It's also MANDATORY for students of film. Don't argue. Live with it. And spare me the arguments like the ones I've read here about the movie being "dated". (PuhLEEZE.) I take out my red pen and write "prove?" in the margin. Just because everyone uses jump-cuts today doesn't mean *Breathless*, as an autonomous work of art, is dated. I've seen many new movies this year, and none of them have challenged me half as much as this old New Wave warhorse continues to do. Godard's putative "homage" to American gangster pictures challenges you right from the first frames, with the get-to-the-point editing and especially with the protagonist, Michel Poiccard (Jean-Paul Belmondo), who within the first 5 minutes steals a car and kills a cop. Godard gives us a "hero" who is amoral, and, worst of all, not particularly bright. Quentin Tarantino, who borrowed mightily from this film, couldn't resist giving his criminals witty things to say about Pop Culture . . . but Belmondo's Poiccard has almost nothing to say, witty or otherwise, although he does jabber on at length about cars and pretty girls. There IS one telling moment wherein he proclaims that he prefers "nothing" to "grief", but despite that statement's basic affinity with the movie's overall existentialist mood, it's also just macho posturing. The triumph of the film, however, is not Belmondo or even the ground-breaking narrative style but Jean Seberg as Belmondo's American girlfriend. At first we're thinking that she's a pixie-like Audrey Hepburn type, what with her radically short haircut and insouciance. But she ain't no Sabrina: she's instead an all-too-familiar type of danger-cruising b---h blessed with that uncanny instinct of knowing when to jump ship when the going gets rough. Godard dares to be interested in these two, even spending an absurd half-hour with them as they loll around in bed, chatting about fornication and Faulkner (Belmondo: "Did you sleep with [Faulkner]?" Seberg: "Of course not!" Belmondo: "Then I'm not interested in him") during the film's middle section. This scene is the essence of Godard's accomplishment, and -- in cinematic terms -- remains very daring. But perhaps "daring" is a dated concept for today's movie-watchers. Perhaps they feel they've moved beyond films like this, and can thus be condescending about *Breathless* and other art-films from its era. I suspect these films are simply out of fashion, and today's audiences are not so much "jaded" as "complacent". [The DVD features commentary that contains nothing new for the veteran New Waver, but it may be of use for newbies.]
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on April 22, 2002
This is one of my favorite movies with two of my favorite actor and actress(Seberg and Belmondo) But if you decide to buy this on DVD do not listen to the commentary. That [person] makes the whole movie look like Godard's homage to "the hollywood movie" sometimes he even mixes up their names and very little is focused on the movie itself.