Wednesday, 5 October 2022

Breathless (À Bout de Souffle) [1960]

 Like someone once eloquently surmised Godard’s scintillating debut – which became the Nouvelle Vague’s manifesto and, alongside The 400 Blows, its most influential work – “there was before Breathless, and there was after Breathless.” Free-form, improvisational, impudent, iconoclastic, exhilarating, and a stunning volte-face to conventions, it heralded its defiant and non-conformist auteur’s transition from theory to action. It was based on a story by his former Cashiers du Cinema comrades Truffaut and Chabrol, which he radically reworked and wrote the script on the fly, even feeding lines to his actors from behind the camera; this was his first of many unforgettable collaborations with Raoul Coutard who made extraordinary cinematographic innovations during its making, and shot a number of remarkable single takes, including an astonishing double full camera rotations in a cramped interior space while following two people from the streets to inside, and the famous climactic tracking shot; the film’s initial cut clocked two hours, prompting Godard to slice between scenes, thus leading to its legendary jump-cuts… anecdotes about the film remain as spellbinding as the film itself. Godard took French cinema to the streets of Paris, and displayed his love for American B-movies – gangsters and noirs – in this jazzy romantic noir with a fine score by Martial Solal, involving Michel (Jean-Paul Belmondo), an insouciant car thief who loves emulating Bogart and is on the lam after killing a cop, and Patricia (Jean Seberg), an alluring and enigmatic girl-woman whose introduction – hawking New York Herald Tribune on Champs-Élysées – remains one of the most recognizable sequences in cinema. Melville, in a deadpan cameo, ironically quipped that his greatest ambition was “to be immortal, and then die” … well, Godard achieved exactly that.

Note: My earlier review of the film can be found here.

Director: Jean-Luc Godard

Genre: Crime Drama/Post-Noir/Romantic Noir

Language: French

Country: France

No comments: