"There's no need to lie. It's like poker. The truth is best. The others still think you're bluffing, so you win."
Even several decades after its initial release, French director Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless is still considered a defining, influential classic drama. Every few decades, a film emerges that presents a breakthrough in filmmaking. In the case of Breathless, the technical innovations and its incredibly groundbreaking style are still inspirational into the 21st century. Other revolutionary aspects include the impeccably impetuous pacing, elegant editing, potent atmosphere and the considerable substance present during a scene of drama. Godard's work is still held in high esteem; with film schools around the globe using this fine artistic slice of moviemaking as a reference...this is a tribute to an extraordinary director who achieved amazing things during his career.
Breathless is austerely remarkable even with an extremely straightforward plot. Its brilliance is drawn from the director's ability to achieve something so simple and yet so amazing. Michel Poiccard (Belmondo) is a sociopath and a small-time crook with a gangster persona who idolises the work of Humphrey Bogart. Michel becomes the subject of a manhunt when he flees after stealing a car and impulsively murdering a policeman that pursued him on a country road. Michel, now wanted by the authorities, returns to Paris where he finds a former American girlfriend named Patricia Franchini (Seberg) who studies journalism and supplies the streets with copies of the New York Herald-Tribune. Michel succeeds in seducing Patricia again, and desires for her to accompany him to Italy when he raises the money. Even with his face dominating the local newspapers and being the centre of a media frenzy, Michel seems unmindful of the police dragnet that slowly tightens its grip around him. He spends most of his time with Patricia evading police and enjoying pleasures in bed. Michel's desperation develops as the police pursue him, while he recklessly pursues his love of American movies and his strong libidinous interest in the beautiful young Patricia.
The storytelling techniques of Jean-Luc Godard are possibly the most mesmerising aspect of the film. To your typical modern audience, the jump cuts may seem lame. However, an audience must observe these editing methods from a historical perspective: never had any filmmaker utilised these prior to Godard's masterpiece. This is precisely why Breathless is such an important movie - virtually every technique is revolutionary. Through the eyes of current movie-goers, these are so submerged in filmmaking practices now that Breathless seems typical. Yet in 1960, these techniques were simply unprecedented. Director Godard's talent is also in the fantastic way the plot progresses. Each shot is framed with style and demonstrates the elegance frequently employed by Godard. All sets, locations and characters carry a certain degree of potency. For those who've studied the period, it's easy to notice the significant facets of life that are represented with great veracity. No exaggerations, no attempt to dilute the period.
Even the characters are constructed from aspects of life! These characters are wonderfully executed by a talented cast. Frankly I did not care for the film until the inclusion of an extremely long sequence in a bedroom. The drama evinces substance and magnificent artistic integrity in the filmmaking as well as the acting. The chemistry between Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg sizzles. Belmondo is charismatic in the title role. It's vital that the audience are able to empathise with him despite the character being a criminal on the run from the law. His charm in line deliveries and facial expressions boost the attraction of his on-screen persona. Jean Seberg is young, beautiful and angelic. Interestingly enough, the actress failed at American movies and fled to Europe. She was at a tender age of 21 when director Godard added her to the cast of his movie. These characters are archetypal and legendary. Look at Al Pacino, Jack Nicholson and Warren Beatty...men whose characters have descended from Belmondo's outstanding performance.
Breathless is a landmark in French cinema, as well as filmmaking worldwide. The originality in the fascinating plot is irresistible, and the viewer is drawn in by the solidity and strength of Godard's directing. To indulge in the magic of this movie is to visit a film as important as Citizen Kane, although sadly the film is less recognised and further overlooked in this current cinematic age. The film is simply a magnificently entertaining film that is the work of an artist. All film students must add this film to their collection and begin taking notes. Breathless is cinematic art that will leave you breathless! (Pun absolutely, positively intended!)