A free-from film, echoed in its jazz soundtrack, Breathless is the next recommendation from the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book following my screening of Thelma & Louise. With it’s jump cuts, it’s occasional breaking of the fourth wall, Goddard’s uneven, but impressive film heralded the arrival of the French New Wave.
Jean-Paul Belmondo is Michel, a small-time thief who makes it to the big time when he kills a cop. Fleeing to Paris to collect money owed him, he meets up with Patricia (Jean Seberg), an American journalist, whom he claims to love.
With it’s jumps it hints at events at moments, without always showing them, forcing the viewer to make the connections in their mind, involving them. It draws the viewer into the events that Patricia and Michel find themselves in.
The film has a flair and style that was unparalleled at the time and shook up viewers around the world.
Goddard works off an original story by Francois Truffaut, but the film has a improvised, off-the cuff feel as images jump cut, but dialogue continues, forming a cohesive whole. The film wanders, dream-like, along its narrative, even as the police draw closer to the the crook turned killer.
But Michel is too hung up on wooing, in his awkward way, Patricia. He speaks to her poorly, always trying to impress her, and even though she falls for her, will she fall in love with him completely, or will she turn him in?
There’s a slice of Parisian life to the film, with little sideways incidents that don’t affect the plot, but create the world it exists in.
Everything on display here in the film, is now old hat in terms of editing, shooting and production, but at the time it must have been joyfully jarring, lending the film a life that wouldn’t exist to it had it been shot in a conventional nature.
I quite like the way the film plays out, and it is undeniably French with the way it concludes, and there is a cynicism to the film when it’s proclaimed that men need women, while women only need money.
This was a great film, and an incredibly enjoyable watch, and while the French New Wave is long over and done with, it’s stunning to think how it would have screened in the 1960s, it would probably have left the audience, wait for it, breathless.
I cannot wait to see what Great Movies – 100 Years of Film has for me next.