Home FM 2 FM 1 FM4 Narrative "Talk to Her" As/A2 in brief World Cinema Experimental Film

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"Breathless" is one of our set films in the world cinema section of the exam.

This question cannot be escaped nor can essential references to this set film.

In our study of "Breathless" we must:

*Know the film,s context.

*know technically how the film was made.

*know how it relates to other New Wave films

*know just what makes it a New Wave film

This will involve us in,

*learning appropriate background

*detailed micro and macro approaches to the film

*using the excellent DVD film commentary

*preparing timed essays from research on MRQE and

elsewhere on the net.

Modern movies begin here, with Jean-Luc Godard's "Breathless" in 1960. No debut film since "Citizen Kane" in 1942 has been as influential. It is dutifully repeated that Godard's technique of "jump cuts" is the great breakthrough, but startling as they were, they were actually an afterthought, and what is most revolutionary about the movie is its headlong pacing, its cool detachment, its dismissal of authority, and the way its narcissistic young heroes are obsessed with themselves and oblivious to the larger society.

Roger Ebert

A review of "Breathless" by Paul Ruspoli 1994

Godard, as well as other French auteurs of the time, admired American B movies for their directness and "because, in part, the French cinema of quality against which he railed had consciously differentiated itself from precisely those Hollywood genres like the gangster film." In fact, it was the French who coined the term "film Noir", to describe this American genre.

"All my avowed ambitions were to make a normal gangster film," said Godard in an interview. Although "normal" is not the first word that comes to mind viewing Breathless, and it is now categorized as a French New Wave film, the story line is directly and intensely influenced by American films: Michel, the antihero, is an amoral character and his death at the end of the film is inevitable. And, like in the American gangster films of the 1940’s, it is questionable if the death of the gangster is in fact a victory. Moreover, Michel shows overt signs of being influenced by characters such as those played by Humphrey Bogart. He is constantly rubbing his lips with a gesture stolen directly from "Bogey", and at one point he stops and stares at a poster of a Humphrey Bogart film and stares at his hero with idolization.

Finally, Breathless is dedicated, half jokingly, to Monogram Pictures, the primary producer of American gangster films.

Paul Ruspoli 1994


Writing credits (in alphabetical order)  

Jean-Luc Godard    

François Truffaut   story

Cast (in credits order)complete, awaiting verification

Jean-Paul Belmondo ....  Michel Poiccard alias Laszlo Kovacs

Jean Seberg ....  Patricia Franchini

Daniel Boulanger ....  Police Inspector Vital

Jean-Pierre Melville ....  Parvulesco

Henri-Jacques Huet ....  Antonio Berrutti

Van Doude ....  Van Doude, The Journalist

Claude Mansard ....  Claudius Mansard

Jean-Luc Godard ....  An Informer

Richard Balducci ....  Tolmatchoff

Roger Hanin ....  Cal Zombach

Jean-Louis Richard ....  A Journalist

rest of cast listed alphabetically:

Liliane David ....  Liliane

Jean Domarchi ....  A Drunk

Jean Douchet ....  A Journalist

Raymond Huntley ....  A Journalist

André S. Labarthe ....  A journalist

François Moreuil ....  A journalist

Liliane Robin ....  Minouche

José Bénazéraf ....  (uncredited)

Philippe de Broca ....  A Journalist (uncredited)

Michel Fabre ....  Plainclothes Policeman (uncredited)

Louiguy ....  (uncredited)

Michel Mourlet ....  (uncredited)

Guido Orlando ....  (uncredited)

Madame Paul ....  (uncredited)

Raymond Ravanbaz ....  (uncredited)

Jacques Serguine ....  (uncredited)

Jacques Siclier ....  (uncredited)

Virginie Ullmann ....  (uncredited)

Emile Villion ....  (uncredited)

Produced by

Georges de Beauregard ....  producer  


Original Music by

Martial Solal    


Non-Original Music by

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart   (from "Clarinet Concerto") (uncredited)  


Cinematography by

Raoul Coutard    


Film Editing by

Cécile Decugis    

Lila Herman    


Second Unit Director or Assistant Director

Pierre Rissient ....  assistant director  


Sound Department

Jacques Maumont ....  sound  


Other crew

Claude Beausoleil ....  camera operator  

I brought "amateur" techniques to movies. In "Breathless," I used the same techniques as Life reporters who, at the time, had nothing to do with Hollywood. I also used underexposed pictures, which were considered awful. But we were the people who said that this is part of human movies, too. Now it's very common”.

The filming of "Breathless" has gathered about it a body of legend. It was one of the key films of the French New Wave, which rejected the well-made traditional French cinema and embraced a rougher, more experimental personal style.

Many of the New Wave directors began as critics for the anti-establishment magazine Cahiers du Cinema.

The credits for "Breathless" are a New Wave roll call, including not only Godard's direction but an original story by Francois Truffaut (Godard famously wrote each day's shooting script in the morning).

Claude Chabrol is production designer and technical adviser, the writer Pierre Boulanger plays the police inspector, and there are small roles for Truffaut and Godard himself (as the informer).

Everyone was at the party; the assistant director was Pierre Rissient, who wears so many hats he is most simply described as knowing more people in the cinema than any other single person.

Roger Ebert

But still, even though all of the movie’s revolutionary elements—its narrative inventions and seat-of-the-pants mise en scéne—are now on view in hundreds of other movies,

Breathless excites like no film since, and should be required viewing for anyone thinking of making a movie.

n fact, it should be required viewing for anyone thinking of even "thinking" about movies. Everything you could possibly come up with, every fresh idea, is right there in 89 minutes. Godard beat you to it.

Watch Breathless and you’ll see the birth of guerrilla cinema: jump cuts, handheld shots, long unbroken takes, tracking moves accomplished with a wheelchair; scenes filmed in natural light; street sequences shot without permits or lights or craft services; gunshots and off-screen crashes.

Godard can be credited (or blamed) for the movies’ current obsession with self-ironic hipness, that knowing wink to the camera. His characters were the first to turn and speak directly to the lens, implicating us in the fictional ruse that we all know moviemaking is. The way they dress and smoke and talk is for our pleasure.

They are cool and they know it. Godard’s lovers and gangsters are paeans to the B-movies he and his fellow critics at Cahiers du Cinema sensed were disappearing. They want to act and talk like characters they’ve seen in the movies.

Godard also embraced clichés and re-contextualized them. The gun, the cigarette, the sports car: these became the props of unrequited love and political commentary, not the ingredients of plot. He once said that "all you need to make a movie is a girl and a gun." When the gun showed up in a Godard film, usually in the last reel, it was taken no more seriously than Belmondo’s cocked hat.

And there are the popular songs, the cultural references, the brand names. This is Godard at his most referential, risking obsolescence by making his films for and about the "Pepsi Generation," yet his generation is just as obsessed as Generation X with love, movies, and product.

Godard also broke ground with his use of intertitles, dividing a film’s structure into segments. There are the random bursts of narrative anarchy, the endless sequences of talk. And there are the silences—the moments when all sound vanishes... It is here that the sadness of Godard’s legacy emerges, because so much in his movies has disappeared from contemporary cinema.

Rustin Thompson.

"I don't know if I'm unhappy because I'm not free, or if I'm not free because I'm unhappy." - Patricia

Patricia: That's wrong. I think informing is very wrong.

Michel: No, it's life. Informers inform, burglars burgle, murderers murder, lovers love.

Pat: Do you know William Faulkner?

Michel: Someone you slept with?

Pat: No, of course not, silly.

Michel: Then the hell with him. Undress.

Pat: He's a writer. He wrote The Wild Palms.

Michel: Take your sweater off.

Pat: The last line is beautiful.... "Between grief and nothing, I'll take nothing."

When we talked, I talked about me, you talked about you, when we should have talked about each other.

Michel to Patricia

By 'eck Michel

we did talk some crap in that film


Jump cut - A cut which breaks the continuity of time by jumping forward from one part of an action to another.A cut where there is an abrupt change between two shots, with no continuity from one to the other,an instantaneous transition between two scenes that have identical subjects in slightly different screen locations, which makes the subject appear to jump within the screen.

A cutaway shot remedies the distracting jump appearance.

Cutaway Transitional footage normally inserted between cuts containing the same subject in slightly different screen positions to avoid a 'jump cut'. Not a favourite of Godard.

Dolly shot - a shot taken while the camera is in motion on a dolly,or on a wheelchair or even a post office cart.

Master shot - a shot which covers an entire piece of dramatic action (usually a long shot, or wide shot).



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