Critical Film Studies
3 March 2015
Weekly Film Essay: Breathless
Breathless (À bout de souffle) is a 1960 French New Wave film written and directed by
Jean-Luc Godard. The script was written by Godard as he went along but it is a development of a treatment of a newspaper story (that Truffaut read) which was worked on by François Truffaut and Claude Chabro. Michel Poiccard is based on Michel Portail (who had an American and
Journalist girlfriend) who stole a car in 1952 and ended up killing a policeman. In the film,
Michael Poiccard is a petty criminal who steals a car and when a cop catches up to him,
Poiccard panics and shoots him dead. He then escapes to Paris to gather money to escape to Italy and to meet up with his American girlfriend Patricia. The rest of the movie is him running around trying to convince Patricia to go to Italy with him and find Antonio who can help him get out of
France.. In the end Patricia informs on him to the cops and he is shot on the street but keeps running until he collapses and dies breathless.
Two key moments of the film are when Poiccard sees Patricia kissing the other American and when Patricia tells him that she called the cops. They both reflect the pervasive theme of trust and love found throughout the movie and seem to make the statement that love is blinding and consuming. Even to his last moment, Poiccard doesn’t stop loving Patricia even if she did
betray him. The sequence that best represents the thematic is the ending where, even after being betrayed by her, he shows he still loves her with the personal faces game and lets her off with a very light admonishing before he passes away.
The title, Breathless, refers directly to the ending of the movie where Poiccard keeps running until he is literally out of breath and dies. In a less literal interpretation the title could represent how the main character is “out of breath” from leading his current lifestyle (not because he wants to change it