For women, money". Melville's " Bob le Flambeur " is referenced when we meet the man who informed on Bob, or when Michel tells a friend, "Bob the gambler would have cashed my check. One inside joke in the film is always mentioned, but is not really there. Michel's alias is " Laszlo Kovacs ," and countless writers inform us this is a reference to the legendary Hungarian cinematographer.
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In fact, Godard had not met Kovacs at the time, and the reference is to the character Belmondo played in Chabrol's "A Double Tour" In a film with so many references to the past of the cinema, it is amusing to find a coincidental reference to its future. Godard's key collaborator on the film was the cinematographer Raoul Coutard , who worked with him many times, notably on " Weekend " It was only Coutard's fourth film, and his methods became legend: How when they could not afford tracks for a tracking shot, he held the camera and had himself pushed in a wheelchair.
How he achieved a grainy look that influenced many other fiction films that wanted to seem realistic. How he scorned fancy lighting. How he used hand-held techniques even before lightweight cameras were available. How he timed one shot of Belmondo so that the streetlights on the Champs Elysses came on behind him. There is a lovely backlit shot of Belmondo in bed and Seberg sitting beside the bed, both smoking, the light from the window enveloping them in a cloud. That's from a long scene that's alive with freshness and spontaneity.
Patricia returns home to find Michel in her bed, and they talk, flirt, smoke, fight, finally make love. She quotes Faulkner: "Between grief and nothing, I will take grief. Michel sits below a Picasso poster of a man holding a mask.
Throughout this long scene, perplexingly, they both throw their discarded cigarettes out the window. In this scene and throughout the film, Godard uses jump cuts--cuts within continuous movement or dialogue, with no attempt made to make them match. The technique "was a little more accidental than political," writes the Australian critic Jonathan Dawson. The finished film was 30 minutes too long, and "rather than cut out whole scenes or sequences, Godard elected to trim within the scene, creating the jagged cutting style still so beloved of action filmmakers.
Godard just went at the film with the scissors, cutting out anything he thought boring. The technique adds charm to a scene where the two drive through Paris in a stolen convertible, and there is a series of closeup cuts over her shoulder as Michel describes her. When the two lovers, fleeing the police, sneak into a movie, it is a scene directly quoted in "Bonnie and Clyde"--which, we recall, both Godard and Truffaut were once to direct.
In each case, the dialogue reflects the action; Bonnie and Clyde hear "we're in the money," and Michel and Patricia hear dialogue about a woman "covering up for a cheap parasite. The movie had a sensational reception; it is safe to say the cinema was permanently changed. Young directors saw it and had abandoned their notions of the traditional studio film before they left the theater. Crowther of the Times, who was later to notoriously despise its descendant "Bonnie and Clyde," said of "Breathless" that "sordid is really a mild word for its pile-up of gross indecencies.
Yet Crowther conceded, "It is no cliche," and the film's bold originality in style, characters and tone made a certain kind of genteel Hollywood movie quickly obsolete. Godard went on to become the most famous innovator of the s, although he lost the way later, with increasingly mannered experiments. Here in one quick, sure move, knowing somehow just what he wanted and how to obtain it, he achieved a turning point in the cinema just as surely as Griffith did with " The Birth of a Nation " and Welles with "Citizen Kane.
This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr Reviews Breathless. Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger? Michel Jean-Paul Belmondo is a youthful dangerous criminal who models himself on the film persona of Humphrey Bogart. After stealing a car in Marseille, Michel shoots and kills a policeman who has followed him onto a country road. Penniless and on the run from the police, he turns to an American love interest Patricia Jean Seberg , a student and aspiring journalist, who sells the New York Herald Tribune on the boulevards of Paris.
The ambivalent Patricia unwittingly hides him in her apartment as he simultaneously tries to seduce her and call in a loan to fund their escape to Italy. Patricia says she is pregnant, probably with Michel's child. She learns that Michel is on the run when questioned by the police. Eventually she betrays him, but before the police arrive she tells Michel what she has done.
He is somewhat resigned to a life in prison, and does not try to escape at first. Michel's death scene is one of the most iconic scenes in the film, but the film's final lines of dialogue are the source of some confusion for English-speaking audiences. In some translations, it is unclear whether Michel is condemning Patricia, or alternatively condemning the world in general. As Patricia and Detective Vital catch up with the dying Michel, they have the following dialogue:.
In November Portail stole a car to visit his sick mother in Le Havre and ended up killing a motorcycle cop named Grimberg. Truffaut worked on a treatment for the story with Claude Chabrol , but they ended up dropping the idea when they could not agree on the story structure. Godard had read and liked the treatment and wanted to make the film. While working as a Press Agent at 20th Century Fox , Godard met producer Georges de Beauregard and told him that his latest film was not any good. After six weeks Godard became bored with the script and suggested making Breathless instead.
Chabrol and Truffaut agreed to give Godard their treatment and wrote de Beauregard a letter from the Cannes Film Festival in May agreeing to work on the film if Godard directed it. Truffaut and Chabrol had recently become star directors and their names secured financing for the film. Truffaut was credited as the original writer and Chabrol as the technical adviser. Chabrol later claimed that he only visited the set twice and Truffaut's biggest contribution was persuading Godard to cast Liliane David in a minor role.
Godard wrote the script as he went along. He told Truffaut, "Roughly speaking, the subject will be the story of a boy who thinks of death and of a girl who doesn't. Godard also named several characters after people he had known earlier in his life when he lived in Geneva. Truffaut believed Godard's change to the ending was a personal one. Jean-Luc chose a violent end because he was by nature sadder than I At the end, when the police are shooting at him one of them said to his companion, 'Quick, in the spine!
Jean-Paul Belmondo had already appeared in a few feature films prior to Breathless, but he had no name recognition outside France at the time Godard was planning the film. In order to broaden the film's commercial appeal, Godard sought out a prominent leading lady who would be willing to work in his low-budget film. He came to Jean Seberg through her then-husband, Francois Moreuil, with whom he had been acquainted.
Godard ended up giving Seberg's husband a small part in the film.
After the film's success, she collaborated with Godard again on the short Le Grand Escroc , which revived her Breathless character. Godard had initially wanted cinematographer Michel Latouche to shoot the film after having worked with him on his first short films.
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De Beauregard hired Raoul Coutard instead, who was under contract to him. The ethno-fiction Moi, un noir has been credited as a key influence for Godard. This can be seen in the adoption of jump-cuts, use of real locations rather than constructed sets and the documentary, newsreel format of filming. Godard envisaged Breathless as a reportage documentary , and tasked cinematographer Raoul Coutard to shoot the entire film on a hand-held camera , with next to no lighting.
He therefore took metre lengths of HPS film sold for 35mm still cameras and spliced them together to metre rolls. The production was filmed on location in Paris during the months of August and September in ,  using an Eclair Cameflex. Almost the whole film had to be dubbed in post-production because of the noisiness of the Cameflex camera  and because the Cameflex was incapable of synchronized sound.
Filming began on August 17, No permission was received to shoot the film in its various locations mainly the side streets and boulevards of Paris either, adding to the spontaneous feel that Godard was aiming for.
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Actor Richard Balducci has stated that shooting days ranged from 15 minutes to 12 hours, depending on how many ideas Godard had that day. Producer Georges de Beauregard wrote a letter to the entire crew complaining about the erratic shooting schedule. Coutard says that on a day that Godard had called in sick de Beauregard bumped into the director at a cafe and the two got into a fist fight. Godard shot most of the film chronologically, with the exception of the first sequence, which was shot towards the end of the shoot.
This location was difficult to secure, but Godard was determined to shoot there after having lived at the hotel after returning from South America in the early s. Instead of renting a dolly with complicated and time-consuming tracks to lay, Godard and Coutard rented a wheelchair for the film that Godard often pushed himself.
Writing for Combat magazine in , Pierre Marcabru observed: "It seems that, if we had footage of Godard shooting his film, we would discover a sort of accord between the dramatized world in front of the camera Belmondo and Seberg playing a scene and the working world behind it Godard and Raoul Coutard shooting the scene , as if the wall between the real and projected worlds had been torn down.
Decugis has said that the film had a bad reputation before its premiere as the worst film of the year. Coutard said that "there was a panache in the way it was edited that didn't match at all the way it was shot.
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The editing gave it a very different tone than the films we were used to seeing. Andrew Sarris analyzed it as existentially representing "the meaninglessness of the time interval between moral decisions. In his biography of Godard, Richard Brody wrote in , "The seminal importance of the film was recognized immediately. In January — prior to the film's release — Godard won the Jean Vigo Prize, awarded 'to encourage an auteur of the future' Breathless opened in Paris The eventual profit was substantial, rumored to be fifty times the investment.
The film's success with the public corresponded to its generally ardent and astonished critical reception Breathless, as a result of its extraordinary and calculated congruence with the moment, and of the fusion of its attributes with the story of its production and with the public persona of its director, was singularly identified with the media responses it generated. New York Times critic A. Scott wrote in , 50 years after the release of Breathless , that it is both "a pop artifact and a daring work of art" and even at 50, "still cool, still new, still — after all this time!