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A petty criminal, wanted for the murder of a police officer, returns to Paris where he meets an American girl who hawks newspapers. They become lovers, but eventually the police pressure her into betraying him and revealing his whereabouts.
For more about Breathless and the Breathless Blu-ray release, see Breathless Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on September 13, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Writers: Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut
Starring: Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jean Seberg, Daniel Boulanger, Henri-Jacques Huet, Roger Hanin, Jean-Pierre Melville
» See full cast & crew
Breathless Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, September 13, 2010
Winner of Silver Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival, Jean-Luc Godard's "A bout de souffle" a.k.a "Breathless" (1960) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include video interviews with cinematographer Raoul Coutard, assistant director Pierre Rissient, and filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker; archival interviews with director Jean-Luc Godard, actors Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jean Seberg, and director Jean-Pierre Melville; video essay by film historian and author Jonathan Rosenbaum; "Chambre 12, Hotel de suede", a documentary by director and popular French television host Claude Venture; "Charlotte et son Jules", a short film by Jean-Luc Godard; the film's original theatrical trailer; and more. The disc also arrives with an 80-page illustrated booklet. In French, with optional English subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless is the film that changed everything – perceptions, expectations, the way movies were made. After it, Cinema was no longer the same. The rules were broken. Or to be perfectly clear, there were no more rules to be followed.
Michel (Jean-Paul Belmondo, Pierrot le fou), a tough looking criminal who worships Humphrey Bogart, steals a car, kills a cop, and heads to Paris where he meets Patricia Franchini (Jean Seberg, Bonjour tristesse), a beautiful American girl who sells the Herald Tribune in the Champs-Elysees. He falls in love with her and asks that she comes with him to Rome.
While Patricia is trying to make up her mind, Michel wanders around Paris, meeting people who own him money. Occasionally, he also steals from people who do not own him anything. Patricia follows him around, clueless about his dealings.
Michel smokes a lot but Patricia does not mind. The two spend plenty of time together talking about love, money, and happiness. Occasionally, they also make love. When Patricia works, Michel runs around stealing. Then they meet again, talk and make love.
The cops begin looking for Michel. They also question Patricia. She wants to stay with Michel but eventually realizes that there is no future for the two of them. After spending the night with Michel in a chic private photo studio, Patricia calls the cops to let them know where her lover is hiding.
Arguably the most influential of the Nouvelle Vague films, Breathless is brash, raw, and unpretentious yet remarkably elegant piece of cinema. It is hilarious, at times offensive, and though suggesting otherwise incredibly serious about everything it shows. It is the coolest film ever made.
Godard's great innovation lies in the distinctive camerawork - jump cuts, fast zooms, and unusual close-ups - and unorthodox treatment of his characters. The plot of Breathless is hardly original but observing Michel and Patricia is fascinating; time and space are handled in a unique manner creating something that could be best described as a sense of three-dimensionality.
Then there is the sense of freedom that permeates Breathless. The improvisations are wild and strange but also rejuvenating. Many of the lines Michel and Patricia utter make little sense but it is incredibly easy to tell what is on their minds. He wants to love her. She wants to be loved. That is all that matters. That is the whole story Breathless tells.
Godard dedicated Breathless to Monogram Pictures, the famous Hollywood studio that specialized in the production of B-movies, in an attempt to prove that interesting films do not have to be expensive films. He was assisted by legendary cinematographer Raoul Coutard, who collaborated with the French director on many of his most renowned films, including Une femme est une femme (1961), Vivre sa vie: Film en douze tableaux (1962), Le mepris (1963), Bande a part (1964), Pierrot le fou (1965), 2 ou 3 choses que je sais d'elle (1967), etc.
In 1960, Breathless won Silver Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival. In 1961, the film won the Critics Award for Best Film granted by the French Syndicate of Cinema Critics.
Breathless Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.34:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"Approved by director of photography Raoul Coutard, this high-definition transfer was created on a Spirit Datacine from a 35mm original fine-grain master positive. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter, and flicker were manually removed using MTI's DRS system and Pixel Farm's PFClean system, while Digital Vision's DVNR system was used for small dirt, grain, and noise reduction.
Telecine supervisors: Lee Kline, Russell Smith.
Telecine colorists: Joe Gawler/Technicolor, New York; Abdel Benlatreche/Vdm, Paris."
This is a strong high-definition transfer, one that improves on all problematic areas SDVD releases of Breathless previously conveyed. Indeed, fine object detail is very good, clarity pleasing and contrast levels perhaps the most consistent I've seen thus far. This said, there are a couple of scenes throughout the film where I spotted traces of extremely mild edge-enhancement. Macroblocking, however, is a not an issue of concern. Furthermore, minor noise and grain corrections appear to have been applied. As a result, the film has a more balanced look, with its fine gran structure still very much intact. The color-scheme is solid. Blacks are rich and well saturated while the variety of grays and whites look pleasingly natural and fresh. Many of the daylight scenes, for instance, look gorgeous. Aside from a few frame transitions, there are no serious stability issues to report in this review. I also did not see any large cuts, marks, stains, or debris to report in this review. To sum it all up, this is a fine presentation of a classic film that received a number of problematic treatments during the years. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Breathless Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: French LPCM 1.0 (with portions of English). For the record, Criterion have provided optional English subtitles for the main feature.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"The soundtrack was mastered at 24-bit from a 35mm optical track print. Clicks, thumps, hiss, and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using Audio Cube's integrated audio workstation".
The French LPCM 1.0 track is pleasing. Understandably, its dynamic amplitude is limited, but the dialog is crisp, clean, and stable. Occasionally there is mild background hiss that is easy to hear, but it is well within the limitations of what a film of this age is likely to possess. Finally, there are no serious balance issues with Martial Solal's music score. I also did not detect any annoying pops, cracks, or dropouts to report in this review.
Breathless Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Interviews - a collage of excerpts from interviews with director Jean-Luc Godard, actors Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg, and director Jean-Pierre Melville, recorded for French television between 1960 and 1964. The interviewees address a variety of different subjects, from the film's production history and reception by the critics to its unique characters. Jean Seberg's comments about her troubled relationship with director Otto Preminger and encounter with Marlon Brando are very interesting. In French, with optional English subtitles. (28 min, 1080i):
1. Jean-Luc Godard X 2
2. Jean-Paul Belmondo
3. Jean Seberg
4. Jean-Pierre Melville
Coutard and Rissient - in this interview, recorded for Criterion in 2007, cinematographer Raoul Coutard and cinephile Pierre Rissient, the assistant director on Breathless, recall specific details from the production history of Godard's film. In French and English, with optional English subtitles. (23 min, 1080i):
1. Learning his trade
2. Dialogue and casting
3. Shooting tricks
4. Locations and lighting
5. Godard's influence
Pennebaker on Breathless - in this interview, recorded for Criterion in 2007, documentary filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker discusses Jean-Luc Godard's famous description of his film as "a documentary about Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg". In English, not sibtitled. (11 min, 1080i).
Jean Seberg - a wonderful video essay, created for Criterion by Mark Rappaport, director of the 1995 film From the Journals of Jean Seberg, focusing on Jean Seberg's life and career. In English, not subtitled. (19 min, 1080i).
Breathless as Criticism - a video essay in which film historian and author Jonathan Rosenbaum analyzes Jean-Luc Godard's film and its message. In English, not subtitled. (12 min, 1080i).
Chambre 12, Hotel de suede - a lengthy documentary, from 1993, in which director and popular French television host Claude Venture interviews different people who were involved with the production of Breathless. Amongst the interviewees are director Claude Chabrol, Jean-Paul Belmondo, cinematographer Raoul Coutard, assistant director Pierre Rissient, editor Cecile Decugis, etc. In French, with optional English subtitles. (79 min, 1080i).
Day 1: Godard
Day 2: Chabrol
Day 3: Coutard/Rissient
Day 4: Moreuil
Day 5. Decugis
Day 6. David
Day 7. Belmondo
Day 8. Tolmachoff
Days 8 and 9: Rue Campagne-Premiere
Charlotte et son Jules (1959) - a short film by Jean-Luc Godard, starring Jean-Paul Belmondo and Anne Collette, courtesy of Les Films du Jeudi. In French, with optional English subtitles. (12 min, 1080i).
Trailer - the original theatrical trailer for the film. In French, with optional English subtitles. (3 min, 1080i).
Booklet - an 80-page illustrated booklet including Dudley Andrew's essay "Breathless Then and Now" (the author is Professor of Film and Comparative Literature at Yale); writings from Jean-Luc Godard, his scenario, and Francois Truffaut's original treatment.
Breathless Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Arguably one of the most influential films ever made, Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless still looks as cool and elegant as it did fifty years ago. If you have never seen it before, it is probably time that you do. As expected, Criterion's Blu-ray release of Breathless does not disappoint. The film looks and sounds very good. Criterion have also included some terrific supplemental features. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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