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À Bout de Souffle
     

À Bout de Souffle

4.5 17
Director: Jean-Luc Godard

Cast: Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jean Seberg, Daniel Boulanger

 

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Jean-Luc Godard wasn't the first important filmmaker of the French New Wave to direct a feature -- François Truffaut and Claude Chabrol had already earned their stripes by the time A Bout de Souffle (aka Breathless) arrived in theaters in 1960 -- but Godard's debut was the movie that most clearly defined a new vision in cinema with its bobbing hand-held

Overview

Jean-Luc Godard wasn't the first important filmmaker of the French New Wave to direct a feature -- François Truffaut and Claude Chabrol had already earned their stripes by the time A Bout de Souffle (aka Breathless) arrived in theaters in 1960 -- but Godard's debut was the movie that most clearly defined a new vision in cinema with its bobbing hand-held camerawork, incessant jump cuts, frequent references to films past and present, and air of studied cool, and the film still feels fresh and invigorating today. Breathless was released on DVD in North America by Fox Lorber in 2001, but Criterion's 2007 edition is simply the definitive home-video edition of this essential film. Breathless has been presented in its original full-frame aspect ratio of 1.33:1 in a transfer approved by cinematographer Raoul Coutard, and while the images occasionally betray the film's shoestring budget, the picture is clear and pin-sharp throughout, and this film has never looked this good on video before. The audio has been mastered in Dolby Digital Mono, and sounds admirably sharp and well-detailed. The dialogue is in the original French (with some passages in English), and the disc features optional English subtitles; the disc boasts a new translation and the titles are clear and easy to read. Along with Breathless, disc one of this set includes the movie's original theatrical trailer and television interviews from the early '60s with Godard, cast members Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg, and Jean-Pierre Melville, the influential French director who helped inspire the New Wave filmmakers and made a brief appearance in Breathless. Disc two of this set is devoted to more bonus features, including a short documentary on the making of the film, an appreciation of Godard and Breathless from documentary filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker, and video essays from Mark Rappaport (on Jean Seberg and her troubled life and career) and Jonathan Rosenbaum (who discusses how Godard's early years as a film critic informed his later work as a director). Also included is 1993's Chambre 12, Hotel de Suede, a feature-length film produced for French television in which Claude Ventura and Xavier Villetard visit locations featured in the film and track down as many members of the cast and crew as they can while staying in the hotel room where Belmondo and Seberg's famous love scene was shot. (They also call Godard for an interview, who replies "Oh, dream on" and hangs up.) And finally, the disc features one of Godard's early short films, Charlotte et Son Jules, which marked his first collaboration with Belmondo. The package also comes with an 80-page paperback book that includes Francois Truffaut's original treatment for Breathless, the outline Godard used in place of a formal shooting script, an essay on the movie from Dudley Andrews, and a handful of interviews with Godard from French arts magazines of the '60s. Breathless remains a seminal text of the French New Wave and the cinematic revolution that would follow, and it's also a remarkably entertaining and engaging work. Criterion's DVD edition not only confirms the film's vital importance but its continued strength as bold, imaginative entertainment, and it's hard to imagine anyone who loves film not being bowled over by this package.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Tony Nigro
Of the films to emerge from France's New Wave, Jean-Luc Godard's feature debut Breathless (1960) is a touchstone. The thin plot plays like a existentialist crime comedy: In bohemian Paris, an ultra-cool lay-about hood (Jean-Paul Belmondo) kills a cop and lams it with an American student (Jean Seberg) -- mostly in her bedroom -- trying to get money and skip town. But simplicity of story gives way to complexity of forms, and, a cinephile to a tee, Godard makes audiences experience film as if the medium had just been invented -- with reinvention being the actual result. There is one dissolve, one iris-in and -out, and erratic jump cutting of Raoul Coutard's crisp, hand-held cinematography, all collaged in a way that makes cinema seem new and improved. This despite familiarities like Belmondo's Bogie lip-rubbing, his character's alias, Laszlo Kovacs, an appearance by director Jean-Pierre Melville, numerous genre tropes, and the shameless quoting of films by Roberto Rossellini, Sam Fuller, and more. An iconoclast on celluloid, Breathless is hip, entertaining, and oh-so-French. It is rightly credited as changing the way we watch movies, and its audacity and style continue to influence filmmakers and amaze audiences worldwide.
All Movie Guide - Jonathan Crow
A loving pastiche of film noir yet an exuberant slap in the face of Hollywood convention, A bout de souffle is a movie landmark that wowed early 1960s audiences with its ultra-cool swagger, amoral outlook, and energetic style. Adopting a loose and shaggy narrative structure, the film follows Michel (Jean-Paul Belmondo), a two-bit thug who models himself on Humphrey Bogart, steals from unsuspecting lovers, and, like the protagonist in Albert Camus's The Stranger, kills for no apparent reason, as he chases after debts, commits larceny, and tries to bed Patricia (Jean Seberg). Shot with hand-held cameras in natural light, the film has the gritty, documentary-like feel of such Italian Neo-Realist classics as The Bicycle Thief and Rome Open City, yet its visual style also breaks every cinematic rule in the book: characters and extras stare directly into the camera, edits occur in mid-shot, and the camera seems willfully restless. In the process, director Jean-Luc Godard gleefully breaks the illusion of reality, always reminding the audience that it is watching a movie. Ever the film buff, Godard packs this film with allusions drawn equally from American pop culture and high art: Nicholas Ray is referenced alongside Dylan Thomas, a 1956 Thunderbird Coupe alongside William Faulkner's Wild Palms. Godard's iconoclastic style, coupled with his constant referencing, might give the impression that the film is a vast inside joke, were it not tempered with a deep existential pathos for its characters. During the famous bedroom sequence, we witness Michel and Patricia, two thoroughly unlikable figures, try and ultimately fail to forge some sort of bond; they are too involved in their worlds to connect. François Truffaut once remarked, "There is the cinema before Godard and the cinema after Godard." A bout de souffle is the masterpiece that launched Godard's career and, in so doing, changed the face of cinema.
Chicago Reader - Jonathan Rosenbaum
Jean-Paul Sartre declared this a masterpiece at an early Paris screening, and there's certainly no doubt that this is the quintessential existentialist movie in style as well as attitude.... In short, mandatory viewing.

Product Details

Release Date:
10/23/2007
UPC:
0715515026222
Original Release:
1960
Source:
Criterion
Region Code:
1
Time:
1:30:00

Special Features

Disc One: ; New, restored high-definition digital transfer, approved by director of photography Raoul Coutard; Archival interviews with director Jean-Luc Godard and actors Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jean Seberg, and Jean-Pierre Melville; French theatrical trailer; New and improved English subtitle translation; ; Disc Two: ; New video interviews with Coutard, assistant director Pierre Rissient and filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker; New video essays: Filmmaker Mark Rappaport's Jean Seberg and critic Jonathan Rosenbaum's "Breathless" as Criticism; Chambre 12, Hôtel de Suède, an eighty-minute French documentary about the making of Breathless, with members of the cast and crew; Charlotte et son Jules, a 1959 short film by Godard, starring Belmondo

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Jean-Paul Belmondo Michel Poiccard
Jean Seberg Patricia Franchini
Daniel Boulanger Police Inspector
Jean-Pierre Melville Parvulesco
Liliane David Minouche
Henri-Jacques Huet Antonio Berrutti
Van Doude Journalist
Roger Hanin Carl Zombach
Liliane Robin Minouche
Francois Moreuil Cameraman
Jean-Louis Richard Journalist
Richard Balducci Tolmatchoff
Philippe de Broca Actor
Claude Mansard Used-Car Dealer
Jean Domarchi Drunk
Michel Fabre Plainclothesman

Technical Credits
Jean-Luc Godard Director,Screenwriter
Raoul Coutard Cinematographer
Georges de Beauregard Producer
Cecile Decugis Editor
Lila Herman Editor
Pierre Rissient Asst. Director
Martial Solal Score Composer
François Truffaut Original Story

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Breathless: Main Feature
1. Michel [5:51]
2. Ham and Eggs [4:05]
3. Patricia [3:36]
4. Tolmachoff [5:02]
5. "Bogey" [5:22]
6. Van Doude [3:53]
7. Hotel Room I [6:01]
8. Hotel Room II [8:08]
9. Hotel Room III [7:37]
10. Thunderbird [6:37]
11. Parvulesco [3:29]
12. Laszlo Kovacs [5:13]
13. On the Lam [10:06]
14. Berruti [3:53]
15. Hideout [3:57]
16. Informer [3:38]
17. "Dégueulasse" [3:36]
1. Jean-Luc Godard x 2 [6:47]
2. Jean-Paul Belmondo [8:15]
3. Jean Seberg [6:23]
4. Jean-Pierre Melville [5:33]
Disc #2 -- Breathless: Special Features
1. Learning His Trade [5:02]
2. Dialogue and Casting [5:13]
3. Shooting Tricks [2:56]
4. Locations and Lighting [6:46]
5. Godard's Influence [2:00]
1. Day 1: Godard [9:05]
2. Day 2: Chabrol [9:00]
3. Day 3: Coutard/Rissient [10:17]
4. Day 4: Moreuil [8:13]
5. Day 4: Decugis [9:37]
6. Day 5: David [10:34]
7. Day 6: Belmondo [9:02]
8. Day 7: Tolmachoff [5:34]
9. Days 8 and 9: Rue Campagne-Première [7:02]

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À Bout de Souffle 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I may change my review upon reception of my order.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Forced to watch this movie for French class, I have now become an overwhelming of French New Wave cinema, especially the works of Jean-Luc Godard. Although, even after watching several more French New Wave films, this one remains my favorite. The film just exudes cool. I could not help to wish that I could sit beside the characters and join into their conversations. Delicious!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Indubitably one of the more momumental works of avant-garde cinema, Godard manages to capture the feeling of an era in Breathless. Wonderful casting and fantastic, revolutionary cinematography that disorientates the audience in an utterly unpredictable way.
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