Michel, Jean-Paul Belmondo, is a confident young car thief and criminal who accidentally shoots a policeman and finds himself on the run in Paris. He attempts to convince the stylish American Patricia, Jean Seberg, to enter into a sexual relationship with him and convince her, possibly pregnant with his child, to financially support him. He fails in both endeavors and is shot by the police after a prolonged chase.
The style of the film is what you associate with the French, black and white, sophisticated, young and carefree in Paris and lots and lots of smoking. This does look ‚~cool' but I wish that this influential visual style had surrounded a story of more substance or a screenplay that contained entertaining, witty or observant dialogue delivered by well defined characters. I appreciated seeing many of the landmarks of Paris in the 1960s but I think it's better captured in Goodbye Again (1961) a film that features an interesting character study and a great Ingrid Bergman performance. Seberg looks very cute in her Leslie Caron-esque ensembles and appears to be trying to something with her character but Godard seems uninterested in this and instead we spend time with our dull leading man who is probably a stand-in for Godard himself.
Now we get to the complete lack of plot in this film. I don't mind films that don't technically have much going on, An Unmarried Woman (1978) is one of my favorites, but the minutiae of the little actions occurring or the conversation or the cinematography or something has to be engaging. Here nothing happens and you are left watching that for 87 minutes thinking "God, if my life is more interesting than this then why am I watching?" Were our main character to be vaguely fascinating or if his relationship with Patricia were to have some tension or whimsy romantic environment built around it this could be really something. If you want a great film that's not really ‚~about' anything watch Before Sunrise (1995) it features two interesting lead characters, great writing, excellent performances and Vienna gets beautifully shot.
I am going to try to get into the French new wave and I am going to next watch Cleo from 5 to 7 (1962) a film with a female perspective that I have heard great things about. The look of this film is beautiful and I have enjoyed seeing it be replicated in My Night at Maud's (1969) and sections of The Good German (2006), an otherwise awful film. If that is all the film has to offer though I am left with an awful little picture that is hard to watch even though it is very short and meant to be "light and fun."
Please, please, please don't watch this film if you want to enjoy life. It appears on lists of films that you "have to see" and I suppose I have accepted the challenge but it hasn't enriched my life in any way. As I continue to explore the French new wave I think it may just not be for me but considering how much praise certain films get from people whose taste I trust I will continue in my endeavor to appreciate this era and genre of film more.
Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg are absolutely charming as the two leads. They have a remarkable dynamic that had me completely absorbed and engrossed throughout the film's fleeting runtime of 90 minutes.
Although I think the relationship between Michel and Patricia is one of, if not the film's best merits, the dialogue becomes a bit dull and monotonous at the very end of its second act.
Surprisingly, I wasn't interested in the whole "murder" thing for the whole of the first two acts. Fortunately, when this storyline intertwined with Michel/Patricia's relationship, and became front and center, I found it quite intriguing and captivating till the end.
Speaking of the end, this is easily one of the most powerful and hard-hitting endings I've seen in a while. With the final scene in this movie and The 400 Blows's, it's safe to assume that French filmmakers pull no punches when it comes to ending their films! It's Fran√ßois Truffaut who wrote the screenplay of this movie, so this also makes sense!
Nevertheless, a specific character's motivations has been explained by this very character; the thing that I found to be unnecessary. I think Godard should have trusted the audience's minds a bit more.
Returning to the positives, I think that the editing technique of jagged cutting serves the movie quite a lot; it gave it a classic and retro vibe, it reflected the recklessness of the protagonist and his misadventures, and it also made the film so vibrant, breezy and airy, and hence cheerful to watch.
I can say that I really liked √ Bout de Souffle! Whilst it's my first Godard, I can say why it's arguably his most accessible, considering he's known as one of the greatest art-house film directors.
Beware the film described as "just as <adjective> today as it was in <year>." They're not going to hold up well, and I'm not sure this does.
Everything about this film was intended to be new and cutting edge - both the photography and the ennui of Michel and Patricia. The photography has been so endlessly imitated that you need extensive exposure to pre-1960 films (or conventional films following this) to even notice that something special was being invented by Chabrol's camera work.
Michel is a twit, posing as a Bogartian tough guy, and Patricia is a self-absorbed enigma. I really didn't care if Michel was caught for killing the motorcycle cop, but the audience of 1960 was probably not used to such a disposable murder victim, unlike the inured crowds today.
Much ink has been wasted discussing the half hour scene in Patricia's apartment, but I'll add something new (really!). This film didn't just lead to Bonnie and Clyde and action flicks with jump cuts. It also gave us Before Sunrise and Manhattan. It's just that those attenuated conversations made more sense.
When this film was originally released, it was very revolutionary. It is also, arguably the film which started the "French New Wave" movement. It is very influential, and it has had a huge impact on cinema. I had a couple issues with it, but overall, it was a pretty impressive film, and I'm glad I watched it.
After a small time car thief named Michel Poiccard shoots and kills a policeman, he reunites with a love interest named Patricia Franchini as he attempts to convince her to run away with him to Italy, all while trying to avoid the cops.
This is arguably one of, if not the most influential movie of all time. It has made many contributions to cinema that have been used again and again in other movies. When it was originally shot, the filmmakers attempted to film it differently than how most films were shot. They used real locations instead of man-made sets and it was filmed in mostly natural lighting. Raoul Coutard, the cinematographer of the film, said "When we were shooting Breathless, we tried to film it the way news reports were shot, i.e., with a handheld camera and natural lighting. In other words, for me it was very much like filming in the heat of battle." Also, since the cameras they used were very loud, Jean-Luc said the lines to them as he filmed it, and he edited their voices into the film later. These differences made it stand out from other films.
However, what this film is perhaps mostly known for is its use of jump-cuts or discontinuity editing. Jean-Luc got the idea for this in director Jean Rouch's 1958 film: "Moi, un Noir". Jean-Luc was a huge fan of that film, and it's credited as a major influence for this film. However, Jean-Luc gave his own interesting twist to this concept. Instead of jumping from one scene to another, he would cut short clips out of the middle of scenes to shorten the films running time to 90 minutes instead of just removing entire scenes altogether. This caused some of the scenes to skip from moment to moment. This gave some of the scenes in the film a jagged and fast-paced feel. Essentially, what Godard did was take an already existing cinematic technique and add his own, unique style to it to spice it up or to change it around in an appealing way.
Also, since Jean-Luc didn't have that big of a budget, being that this was his first film, he had to make use of what he had and try to find clever ways to cut down on cost. Godard had to film in locations that he already had access to, use cameras that he already had access to (the entire film was shot by using handheld cameras), and he hired people he knew to help work on the film. Often, he would film on the streets of Paris without any permits. At some parts, cinematographer Raoul Coutard would film scenes while sitting in a wheelchair as he was pushed along by crew members.
I've spent a lot of time discussing its influence, but now I'm going to talk a bit about what I think of its story.
I thought that it was really interesting how Michel was slowly able to gain Patricia's trust as the film went on. At the same time, Patricia had to decide whether or not she should stay with him or inform the cops that she knows where they can find him. As the 2 made their way through Paris, there was always a slight amount of tension since Michel's face is everywhere in papers. Also, people often happened to be reading them when he would be going by. There are also a few scenes in which people recognized him, and he had to escape the area quickly.
However, there are 2 flaws (mostly minor ones) that I had with its story.
The first one is a minor complaint towards its intro. I felt like it rushed the entire intro scene when he steals the car, murders the policeman, and meets up with Patricia. It seemed very fast-paced to a point where I could hardly keep up with it. I wished for it to slow down a bit to an enjoyable pace. I was a bit worried that the entire film would be like that. Fortunately, it wasn't, but my complaint here does not vanish despite this.
My second issue with the film is not as minor as the first one, but it bugged me a little bit more. This complaint is about the predictability of the films ending. After Patricia informed Michel that she did tell the cops where he lived, and that they were coming for him, it became clear to me what was going to happen next, and I was instantly able to figure out how it would end. It became obvious which direction the movie was going to head in next. I wished that they revealed it in a less obvious way than that. For example, they could've revealed it right when they were about to drive away, and the cops could show up right after that revelation. My issue might still exist in a few remnants, but it wouldn't be nearly as glaring.
In conclusion, I really liked this film, and I can respect it for its huge influence on cinema history. It did many things different from most other films, and it showed that you don't have to follow any rules when writing films. I did have a couple issues with its intro and outro, but other than that, I liked everything else about the film. I can understand why it would be brought up on "best movies ever made" lists and I'd probably add it too if I made one. It has had a huge impact on cinema history, and I can respect it for what it's done.