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Tuesday, August 2

Directed by Jean-Luc Godard

Starring Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg

(1960) “To become immortal, and then to die.” Lip-stroking pug Jean-Paul’s on the run, shooting cops and stealing cars – as well as cash from the handbag of thickly-Iowa-accented, Herald Tribune-hawking girlfriend Jean Seberg; with the typically Gallic undertone of femmes vs. hommes as the couple engage in boudoir philosophy, staring contests, sous blanket tussels, and plenty of le smoking. Erstwhile Cahier du Cinéma critic Godard’s début feature turned a sketchy outline from critical confrère François Truffaut into one of the benchmarks of the New Wave, seemingly reinventing cinema itself, and immediately rocketing Belmondo (in his ninth film) and Seberg (the beginning of her European eminence following two Preminger flops in a row) to world stardom, and beginning Godard’s decade of supreme hipness, of seemingly compulsive, and often outrageous, innovation. The pace is non-stop – a better translation of the title is “out of breath” – thanks to the startling, then-revolutionary use of jump-cutting (when the first edit came in at 3 hours, New Wave godfather Jean-Pierre Melville – seen here as novelist “Parvulesco” – advised losing the subplots, but JLG instead did the unheard of: cutting freely within shots); while the “je m’en fous” attitude of both protagonist and film proved the prototype of movie cool that every would-be cinéaste still aspires to. In French, with English subtitles. 35mm. Approx. 89 mins. 


“As fresh and startling as it was 50 Years ago!”
– Martin Scorsese

“There’s Potemkin, Citizen Kane, and this…Godard’s first film.”
– J. Hoberman

“No film has been at once so connected to all that had come before it and yet so liberating…[It’s] like high-energy fusion of jazz and philosophy. After Breathless, most other new films seemed instantly old-fashioned.”
– Richard Brody

“Soon after Breathless first appeared, not only were millions mimicking Belmondo’s own mannerisms but filmmakers began to imitate Godard. His footprints show up in everything from A Hard Day’s Night and Bonnie and Clyde to today’s sassy, bounding, nervously edited commercials for athletic shoes and blue jeans. In the seven years following Breathless, Godard created a run of movies that may be the greatest period of sustained brilliance in motion picture history. But his genius was already obvious in this lilting yet heartbreaking masterpiece which captures the lyricism and cruelty of city life, the easy amoralism of youthful impatience, the melancholy dead-end of male-female relations, the doomed romanticism of those weaned on old-movies.”
– John Powers

“The atmospheric fatalism of the French gangster movie hot-spliced with the plot-driven fatalism of American Film Noir…It lit the fuse for the whole youth movement in cinema. Some of todays’ young directors may not even know how indebted they are to Godard’s work; the fact remains that Breathless is where it – they – all began.”
– Phillip Lopate, The New York Times

Film Forum