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Breathless is a 1960 film directed by Jean Luc Godard, in his feature filmmaking debut. Its original French title is "À bout de souffle" which translates more nearly to "at breath's end." Along with Francois Truffaut's The 400 Blows and Alain Resnais' Hiroshima, Mon Amour, it gained attention for the French New Wave.
The basic plot is fairly simple, seasoned by Godard with pop-cultural meta-commentary and Paris travelogue. Petty criminal Michel steals a car and, seeing that a policeman is following him on motorcycle, shoots said cop. He then flees to Paris and hides out with his American girlfriend. Eventually after she learns that he is a fugitive, she turns him in to the police. After a chase through the city on foot, he is shot and killed.
Breathless made an international star of former boxer Jean-Paul Belmondo and raised the profile of Jean Seberg, whose Hollywood career had stalled when she starred in the big budget flop Pope Joan.
Tropes associated with Breathless include:
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: Godard doesn't go as crazy with it here as much as in later films like Le Weekend, but Michel frequently talks to the camera/audience.
- Creator Cameo: Godard shows up briefly as an informant.
- Foreign Remake
- The Ingenue: The last image of the film is of the girl looking into the camera and saying, innocently, "What does it mean, 'disgusting'?" (She's speaking in French, which is not her first language.)
- Jump Cut: The movie helped popularize them. However, they weren't done because of stylistic choice as much as the fact that Goddard neded to shorten the picture, so he got rid of frames randomly.
- Smoking Is Cool: Michel clearly thinks so, although some viewers may be put off by the detail with which burning cigarettes are shown, ashes and all.
- Suicide by Cop: Arguable case. Michel kills a policeman and resists arrest, so his death isn't unpredictable.