Breathless (1960)

Breathless is a film that leaves you just that; it is a brisk 90something minute journey that rarely slows down, delivering an exhilarating experience through both its narrative and its filmic style.

Godard’s first film follows a man on the run, after committing a murder in rural France, who reunites with a former flame, an American reporter. The two are both the pursuers and the pursued, whose roles constantly shift both among themselves and with their surroundings. The power plays among the two of them are just as compelling as their experiences on the edge of the law.

Through brilliant editing techniques, such as jump cuts and sound continuity, the action unfolds upon the audience with great efficiency and effectiveness. We see the full extent of their actions and their dialogue, quickened by the luxury of jump cuts, eliminating that which is not necessary and heightening the sense of urgency throughout the entire film.

Even when the two are at rest, passing the time in a hotel after being pursued by the authorities, the pace does not slow down, as we witness very well-written conversations between the young lovers. They view life with a cynicism that is somehow fatalistic yet charming, with an authenticity rare to characters with such a negative perspective. It rings as true, not the cliche that it has become in a post-Breathless world.

In addition to its own merits, which are plentiful, Breathless is such an essential viewing due to how influential it has become. Both its formal techniques, of story and script, as well as its informal aspects, such as editing and sound, have paved the way for many modern films. Even among our contemporary cinema, though, Breathless still delivers an exhilarating and truly breathtaking ride.

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