À bout de souffle (Breathless) – Jean-Luc Godard (1960)

Breathless (French: À bout de souffle; literally “at breath’s end”) is a 1960 French film directed by Jean-Luc Godard, and Godard’s first feature film. It was one of the first and most influential films of the French New Wave. At the time, the film attracted much attention for its bold visual style and the innovative use of jump cuts.

Breathless, together with François Truffaut‘s The 400 Blows and Alain Resnais‘s Hiroshima, Mon Amour, both released a year earlier, brought international acclaim to the French nouvelle vague.

Godard envisaged Breathless as a reportage (documentary), and tasked cinematographer Raoul Coutard to shoot the entire film on a hand-held camera, with next to no lighting. The production was filmed on location in Paris during the months of August and September in 1959, using an Eclair Cameflex. Almost the whole film had to be dubbed in post-production because of the noisiness of the Cameflex camera.

Coutard has also stated that the film was virtually improvised on the spot, with Godard writing lines of dialogue in an exercise book, giving the lines to Belmondo and Seberg, having a few brief rehearsals on scenes involved, then filming them. No permission was received to shoot the film in its various locations (mainly the side streets and boulevards of Paris) either, adding to the spontaneous feel that Godard was aiming for.

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