Breathless (1960)

In real life people are not completely as they appear. They can go from being the nicest person you’ve ever met to the biggest asshole you could ever imagine in seconds flat. In fact, that’s part of the joy that occasionally comes with watching films: we get a vision of life where things just work out for people that deserve it to and justice is served to those who likewise deserve it. In the movies, a subtle note in the score or the way a person is framed in a shot can tell you immediately whether they are good or bad. Though these aspects are not present in real life, some probably wish they were, especially in regards to the people one holds affection towards. In Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless, this style of realism with regards the ambiguous nature of an individual’s personality is placed front and center.

Breathless is the story of Michel (Jean-Paul Belmondo) a car thief and probable con man who, despite any given time line, speaks and acts as though he has been living this type of life for a while now. After what appears to be just another car robbery, Michel is followed shortly after by the police. After seemingly circumventing the law by pulling into a wooded area, Michel is confronted by a lone officer whom Michel guns down. Michel flees on foot into the heart of Paris, planning to gather up some debts he is owed while also trying to convince the woman he is in love with, Patricia (Jean Seberg), to escape with him to Italy. Michel, while finding it difficult to procure the finances he is owed, is also starting to see his name and face appear in newspapers in connection with the slain policeman. All the while, Patricia is playing him hot and cold, never truly reciprocating his pleas of affection toward her. As the heat keeps turning up and time is running out, Michel must decide what is truly important to him and how much he is willing to risk for his rewards.

I have to start by saying that the dialogue in Breathless is some of the best I’ve ever seen. I don’t know if it was simply spruced up in the translation or if it was originally written this well, but given that this film is a well known classic I assume it is the latter. Starting from the very first line (reprinted between my name above) the script is near-endlessly quotable (a few of my other favorites being “girls never have cash” and “you bet, pet”). Another notable aspect of the film is its soundtrack, consistently giving it it’s own “breath.” The fast pace of the jazz score successfully compliments the free-form shooting style of Godard, giving even menial activities a much more urgent feel.

The facet of the movie which appears to be the most polarizing is its abundant arrogance. Obviously initially stemming from the personality of Godard himself, it is shown outright in the character of Michel. While being pursued by police investigators and trying to accomplish his personal goals throughout the whole of the film, Michel rarely seems to falter in his utter self-assurance. He seems to believe that he is constantly one step ahead of (thus better than) everyone else in the movie, giving the movie as a whole a feel that it is better than others (a feeling expressed in articles written by Godard himself). While I believe the arrogance is part of the charm, I could easily see others finding it to be a bit too much.

I give Breathless 4 out of 5. Watch This Movie on Putlocker.

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