Breathless (The Criterion Collection)
The Criterion Collection
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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.
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
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Top customer reviews
It is obvious that this film influenced countless others as in its almost documentary-like feel with handheld cameras following the actors and shot in the streets of Paris it reminded me of William Friedkin's work in The French Connection (Two-Disc Collector's Edition) and even Scorcese's work in Taxi Driver [Blu-ray] while the overall story of amoral figures running around allowing circumstances to dictate their actions reminded me a lot of films like Bonnie and Clyde (Blu-ray Book). Also the way this film was made on the ridiculously cheap probably inspired films like Easy Rider [Blu-ray] and The Blair Witch Project [Blu-ray].
What really impressed me was the "surprise" ending with the enigmatic actions of Seberg's character at the end which made me laugh when I realised that she fooled us all along and that the naive American girl was actually the most cunning and totally self-serving (others may consider it just being realistic) character of all. It was obvious from the start that Seberg never really loved the Belmondo character and in fact she was trying to get rid of him but like a rash that wouldn't go away she simply tolerated him knowing that it wasn't wise to upset a murderous gangster and when she saw a chance to get away from him and from his manipulating her into agreeing to go on a trip to Rome with him when she clearly preferred to continue studying at the Sorbonne at least for me all her actions made a lot of sense in the end. Beware the naive and innocent looking as they may just turn out to be the very opposite. In fact, the Belmondo character was on the outside what the Seberg character was on the inside and vice versa: remarkable! I enjoyed this film so much that it too will now make it onto my shortlist of annual classic film viewing.
Very unique film that impressed me no end and a must-have in any self-respecting movie fan's video library.
Very highly recommended!
The film is full of homage after homage to movies and pop culture of the day that so inspired Godard and many of his contemporaries. All of this is interlaced with a story of two characters so convinced of their independence from society that they cannot see how trapped they are within their self-created images gleaned from the icons of that time and place. All of this is presented with a wonderful mix of humor and suspense that propels the story forward in jerks and leaps through the city. Only when we are in Patricia's apartment does the film switch to long lingering shots of the everyday life of these two people. Then back out on the streets and the frantic chase with the cops and the search for an escape.
Jean Paul Belmondo is simply incredible to watch in this the film that made him and his tough sexy image famous throughout the world. He is so natural, and human as to seem to be caught by the eye of the camera completely unaware in his life as Michel Poiccard. Jean Seberg broke out of her limited Hollywood shell and embarked on her European career with her role as Patricia the American girlfriend of Michel who ultimately and inexplicably does what she must do. It is obvious that Godard and his cameraman adore her and the wide-open eye of the lens lingers on her with the same enamored devotion that Michel reluctantly shows her. With this film she really shows the range of her talent and how good she really was in the medium of film acting.
Here are two of the most photogenic faces of the early sixties shot without Hollywood lighting setups. Yet some of the shots have a glamour that Hollywood could not equal in all its artifice. Yet all the time this groundbreaking film never for a moment lets you forget you are watching a movie-movie. Both real and fake it achieves a fantastic reality all its own that changed cinema in profound ways and is still affecting the way we look at and make movies today.
In keeping with the ideas of cinema verite, some of this was shot live on the streets: those people [passing by are real tourists and pedestrians, not extras, and it is interesting to watch their varied reactions to the actors and cameramen.