Half a century ago, wonder kid French director Jean-Luc Godard captivated audiences and critics alike with his debut tour de force, A bout de soufflé (aka Breathless), a gangster love story set in the boulevards and cafes of 1960’s Paris, which marked the end of classical cinema, heralded the birth of the French New Wave, and made Jean-Paul Belmondo a huge star.
In his first major role, 27-year-old Belmondo played a Humphrey Bogart-styled petty thief called Michel who, on the run for shooting a cop, hides out in the apartment of Patricia, a free-spirited American student played by Jean Seberg. The Gauloise-puffing Michel then uses all his Gallic charms to seduce Patricia, while plotting his escape to Italy. But betrayal and tragedy await Michel’s despicable rogue…
50 years after its release, Breathless continues to captivate and resonate with audiences. Why? Because its stars are the epitome of chic (Seberg) and coolness (Belmondo), while Godard’s ground breaking approach to film-making (jump cuts, hand-held cameras and improvised set-ups) influenced every director in its wake. It also had a huge influence on contemporary culture – from fashion and gender politics (Jean Seberg broke the norm of perceived femininity with her androgynous looks) to the way we understand film language.
Now beautifully restored, Breathless is available on DVD and Blu-ray, as part of the Studio Canal Collection from Optimum Releasing, and includes a host of special features, including an affectionate featurette on Jean Seberg’s troubled life, as well as the 2000 spoof Je T’aime John Wayne and Godard’s 1996 Howard Hawks homage, Made in USA.
Stylish, enduring and totally rebellious, Breathless