À bout de souffle (Breathless)

(Directed by Jean-Luc Godard) (1960) (Adelaide French Film Festival, 25 March 2021)

Roughly speaking, the subject will be the story of a boy who thinks of death and of a girl who doesn’t.” So said the Director, and that is not a bad summary of a shallow but hip tale of ne’er-do-well Michel (Jean-Paul Belmondo), a Humphrey Bogart wannabe who is more like James Dean, acting like the poor kid In the Ghetto (of Marseilles): he borrows a gun, and steals a car, [and shoots a cop], and he tries to run but he don’t get far…Needing cash to fund his escape to Rome (at least he has great taste in cities), he shacks up with Patricia (Jean Seberg in an appropriately fey and throwaway performance, in which her Mia Farrow haircut, vacuous expressions and wonky smile are the stars). After countless slurpy jump cuts and several tantrums by Michel (taxi drivers beware!), she turns him in to the police, by which time he’s fed up with running, and dies on a Paris street, “à bout de souffle.”

Atget meets Godard | Greg Neville's photography blog

The film was a big success at the time for its frenetic pace, cigarette-chomping, car-thieving, cool detachment, nihilism, narcissism, glib cultural references with several pointless Gallic flourishes, and disavowment of conventional story-telling. Belmondo holds it together in a charismatic performance that makes no concession to amiability, matched by Seberg in a role closer to Badlands than Bonnie and Clyde. The casual construction of the piece paved the way, for a time, to a new style or cinema (it ran out of puff fairly soon). It was good to see this on the big screen at the Adelaide French Film Festival, but the wildly uneven, jazzy soundtrack was set at far too many decibels.

Godard's Breathless at 60 — is it any kind of masterpiece? | Financial Times

1 Comment

  1. Reply

    M. R. Falls

    March 26, 2021

    Good review. Certainly it’s a ‘nihilistic’ movie. No-one’s going anywhere. The Belmomdo character repeatedly saying that he just has to see the man who owes him money reminded me of ‘Jenkins/Davies’ in The Caretaker who just has to get to Sidcup to pick up his papers.

Leave a comment...

While your email address is required to post a comment, it will NOT be published.

Leave a Reply

© Copyright 2014 The Varnished Culture All Rights Reserved. TVC Disclaimer. Site by KWD&D.