I’m in a stretch of the BFI’s Greatest Films of All Time list where I’ve seen most of the films before. Beginning with 1956’s The Searchers, this current stretch includes eight movies I’ve seen before, including one of my longtime favorites, Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless (aka À bout de souffle) from 1960.

Loosely based on a true story, Breathless follows small time criminal, Michel Poiccard (Jean-Paul Belmondo) as he avoids the law after killing a police officer early on. He tries to persuade his American friend in Paris, Patricia Franchini (Jean Seberg) to escape with him to Italy. The plot is sparse, the real heart of the film is the relationship between the roguish Michel and the independent and modern Patricia. His efforts to avoid the police feel lazy and indifferent. One could almost forget he is on the run. Committing murder does not weigh on his mind. Patricia seems unconcerned about his criminal nature. They live in a complex and modern morality that has not appeared in any of the films so far.

Although several films in the list up to this point (Bicycle Thieves, Journey to Italy, The 400 Blows), anticipated things to come, Breathless was the real game changer, perfectly exemplifying many of the themes and techniques that had been starting to bubble up to the surface. Beyond the naturalistic style of some of the former films, Breathless brings the improvised feel, the spontaneity and guerilla filmmaking to a new level. Edited with varying jump cuts and long takes, Breathless is constructed in an entirely new way and provides a rich and exciting experience. We’ve entered a whole new world of filmmaking and there’s no turning back.



Very Good



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