- Directed by Jean-Luc Godard
- Starring : Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jean Seberg
- France, 1960, French with English sb, 89 minutes
- With a short presentation of the French "Nouvelle Vague" (New Wave), by Eric Touzé
A BOUT DE SOUFFLE (BREATHLESS)
Michel (Jean-Paul Belmondo) is a youthful criminal who is intrigued with the film persona of Humphrey Bogart. After stealing a car in Marseille, Michel shoots and kills a policeman who has followed him onto a country road. Penniless and on the run from the police, he reunites with a hip American student and aspiring journalist (Jean Seberg), who sells the New York Herald Tribune on the streets of Paris. The ambivalent Patricia unwittingly hides him in her apartment as he simultaneously tries to seduce her and call in a loan to fund their escape to Italy…
Breathless was one of the earliest, most influential examples of the French New Wave Together with François Truffaut’s The 400 Blows and Alain Resnais’s Hiroshima, Mon Amour, both released a year earlier, it brought international acclaim to this new style of French filmmaking. At the time, the film attracted much attention for its bold visual style and the innovative use of jump cuts.
TRIBUTE TO JEAN-PAUL BELMONDO, HERO AND VILLAIN
Jean-Paul Belmondo is one of French cinema’s most iconic performers, an extremely charismatic actor who, in his glory days of the 70s and 80s, could be relied upon to attract cinemagoers in their millions. In a career that spans more than half a century, he has worked with some of France’s most distinguished filmmakers, including Jean-Luc Godard, Jean-Pierre Melville, François Truffaut, Claude Chabrol and Alain Resnais. He not only featured in big budget mainstream films but also lent his talents to more challenging films d’auteur. Many of Belmondo’s films are now considered classics of French cinema and quite a few are held in very high regard.
Jean-Paul Belmondo was born on April 9, 1933, in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France (near Paris). His father was a sculptor and his mother a painter.
Belmondo was cast in the lead role in Godard’s debut feature film, À bout de souffle (1960; Breathless). In the movie, Belmondo’s character, an admirer of Humphrey Bogart, kills a policeman and then hides out with his American girlfriend. Breathless was a landmark film that heralded the French New Wave. It also shot Belmondo (and Godard) to stardom, with Belmondo being lauded as France’s answer to James Dean.
Belmondo also worked with another leader of the French New Wave, François Truffaut, when he appeared opposite Catherine Deneuve in La Sirène du Mississipi (1969; Mississippi Mermaid). However, Belmondo began to focus more on action films and comedies as his career progressed. Throughout the 1970s, Belmondo coasted along on a tide of ever-increasing popularity. He became one of France’s biggest stars. His biggest hits include such productions as L’Incorrigible (1975), L’As des as (1982) and Le Marginal (1983). Thereafter, his popularity began to wane. Audiences and critics found his films formulaic and the actor’s decline followed that of the genre with which he was associated, the polar.
Belmondo appeared in some films in the 1990s, but none was a success, and he focused on his stage career.
In a remarkable career, Jean-Paul Belmondo has earned the respect and admiration of cinemagoers across the world. He was awarded one of France’s greatest honours, the Commandeur de la Légion d’honneur, in 2007, in recognition of his unique contribution to cinema and theatre. In 2011, the Cannes Film Festival paid tribute to him by giving him a special Palme d’Or to commemorate his exceptional body of work. Belmondo’s films are still widely seen and represent some of the best in mainstream French cinema, be they feisty historical romps, exciting action thrillers or enjoyably daft comedies.