Sunday, 8 January 2012

We'll run until we're BREATHLESS..

As I said before: I will from now on post a lot more about European films – and I will begin with the film which was one of the most influential films for an important movement in European films: The Nouvelle Vague – which means: New wave – and we’re not talking about feminine guys wearing a frown and heavy make-up.. As I now learned in English it is called French New Wave.. well.. we never stop learning.. (or: at least we shouldn't..)

But let's talk about the film by Jean-Luc Godard:



Engl. title: BREATHLESS - literally it would mean: "at the end of breath"

here's the poster for the anglophone viewer:

and here for the German:

In a nut-shell:

The little gangster Michel (Jean-Paul Belmondo) whose business is stealing cars – has shot a police officer during a stop-and-search operation. Now he is on the run. ~ Any question left WHY this film has made it into this month's theme? ~

Michel wants to go to Italy. For that he needs money – and he wants to take American student Patricia (Jean Seberg) - 
with her he has an on and off affair - with him.

So he heads to Paris where she lives – but: will she come with him? And will she help him at all?

 ~ Michel - having Patricia where he wanted her.. ~

Watch out for...

...Jean-Luc Godard - he appears very late (almost the end of the film) as a bystander/informer sporting sunglasses and reading a newspaper.

... Humphrey Bogart - that is: for his picture - Michel is looking at it.. This film is meant as kind of a hommage to the classic film noir.. 

~ same bed - different outfits.. think what you want..~

  • À BOUT DE SOUFFLE was filmed in 1959 on real location in Paris - and: yes, you're going to see a few of Paris' landmarks..

  • This film is based on a script by François Truffaut - which is based on a newspaper article about a real murder of a police officer.

  • Jean-Paul Belmondo believed after filming that this was one of the worst films ever made and never thought that it would actually made it into cinemas - not to speak of being such a success..

  • Jean-Luc Godard was looking for a leading lady who was internationally known - Jean-Paul Belmondo was almost unknown outside France at that time. - Godard was acquainted to Jean Seberg's then husband François Moreuil - that's how he found her in the end.

  • Besides the title itself there are no credits.
  • The score was delivered by popular Jazz-pianist Martial Solal.
  • Michel uses Laszlo Kovacs at some points as his name - this is a reference to a film by Claude Chabrol in which Jean-Paul Belmondo's character had that very name: À DOUBLE TOUR (1959).

    ~ puzzle: on this picture a french actor is hidden 
    - can you spot Jean-Paul Belmondo here? ~

  • This was Godard's first full-length movie.
  • When the filming of À BOUT DE SOUFFLE started the script wasn't finished yet.. Sometimes Jean-Luc Godard would give the actors their lines just when they were about to film a scene - this way keeping the film more off-handed.

  • Jean-Pierre Melville - a famous french writer/director who addopted his family name from famous author Herman Melville and who appears in this film as a writer giving an interview - later stated that he gave Godard the advice to cut all scenes which slowed the film, when Godard asked him for tips. That was what Melville would do with his own works, too.. What he did not expect was how Godard worked out his tip: Instead of cutting out complete scenes he just took parts of scenes - which lead in the end to the famous jump cuts for which À BOUT DE SOUFFLE is now famous..


  • The end-scene - in which Michel dies after Patricia sold him out to the police, who shoot him - is kind of puzzling:

    Michel says: "C'est vraiment déguelasse.." - which can mean "That's really disgusting." or in French slang "That makes me sick/ want to puke" .. Maybe you can decide for yourself what he actually said.. I am going with the latter - Michel isn't actually the poetic type..
~ picturing the cliché of a French film: sitting in a café chatting.. ~

You should watch this film if you are a fan of...

... 60s films 

... French films

... not so happy - but more realistic endings

... young men telling young women that they love them to make them having sex with said young men - and calling them ugly if said young women don't want to. (or just:  courtship..)

... dialogues about sex - without really showing a sex scene (just implying one..)

... 60's french  magazines of the Playboy kind - Michel is browsing through one - and you will have a look at the nude girls, too..

... each and every Jean - but especially: 

Jean Seberg, Jean-Paul Belmondo & Jean-Luc Godard

Never ending story:

There is a re-make - also by the name of BREATHLESS - from 1983 in which Richard Gere and Valérie Kaprisky played the lead characters - obviously here the nationalities are reversed - also this film takes place in the United States of America.

~ international understanding.. ~

Quotes corner:

Michel: "If you don't like the sea ... or the mountains ... or the big city ... then get stuffed!"

German author Bertolt Brecht once stated that theater shouldn't allow audience to identify with the characters - and that's apparently what Godard decided to do with the character of Michel. He is quite arrogant and selfish.. He is the only one to know what's right - and he's frequently insulting all other people around him.. (well.. they are quite dumb, aren't they..)

The dialogues in this film are as much vulgar at some points as they are philosophic. Maybe that's what makes it so interesting. It's like life: a mixture of beauty and filth - with a higher rate of filth.

At some points it's quite funny, too:

When Patricia asks Michel whether he would know William Faulkner he answers:

 "No. Did you sleep with him?

And here one of my favourite sentences:

Patricia: "It's sad to fall asleep. It separates people. Even when you're sleeping together, you're all alone."  [that is actually what I like about it..]

~ Patricia answering Michel's question about with how many men she had had sex with.. ~

I like this film - mostly because it isn't romantic. Frankly, the older I get the more cynical I become. Who knows maybe I am not too fond of Michel because he is a lot like me..? Well.. as long as I don't look like him.. after all I AM female.. Though I would prefer to be like Patricia..

~ ... ~

Speaking of Patricia: I also like this film very much because it sports the unbelievable pretty Jean Seberg. Her character is one of my favourites. And: I could watch her for ages. The pictures of her from this film are just breathtaking (pardon the pun..) She is so delicate and elfin.. I am actually very much in love with her - though next to her I'd look like a dray horse..

Have a few images of her:

And if you like to: you can now watch the whole film here - with English subtitles:

Thank you very much for listening!




  1. So sad to say that while I have seen the Richard Gere 80's remake, I haven't seen this one. It's on my must see list now. Great post Irene!

  2. Hope you'll like it, Monty! Thank you again for liking my posts! Is the remake good? (yes.. I haven't seen THAT one..)


I really appreciate your comments - I'll read them all and if I can think of an answer I'll post it. :")