With the cockiness and fleeting charm of Jean-Luc Godard leaving a variety of impressions, it is fairly understandable to consider Breathless as not only one of his most engaging films, but also one that doesn’t reek of vile pretentious misery, something that inflicted his later films. No harm to the man intended, for Breathless, his entry into the new plains of the 1960s, offers up an incredible display of strong direction, engaging themes and a thorough, stern hand behind the camera. Audiences are offered the opportunity to peer into the vibrant, fascinating landscape that the French New Wave had to offer, and this Jean-Paul Belmondo led film is the perfect introduction to the many tropes and stylings of such an impactful movement.
Ingenuity can be found tightly woven in the seams, Breathless screams out with passionate adoration for cinema and the creators within. Godard manages a tremendous offering, a young man spirals into a fleeting life of crime, all the while he attempts to convince Patricia Franchini (Jean Seberg) to run away with him to Italy. Michel Poiccard (Belmondo) is presented with all the charm and arrogance you’d expect, but he conducts these manners with intensity and poetic brilliance. Much of the film depends on the idealistic chemistry found between Seberg and Belmondo, of which there is a noticeable abundance. Relaying their talents with clarity, the two share more than a handful of invigorating and exceptional scenes, from the infamous final moments and utterances to the lengthy conversations they have with one another, where Poiccard insists that he and Franchini flee to Italy.
Captured well by the strong artistic style of Godard, Breathless offers much in the way of charming direction. His composure and clarity in showing the fear-induced mind of Poiccard is exceptional, with very few blemishes to shunt us away from a resoundingly great film. Breathless exudes the culture of France at the time, the fitted blazers and hats adorned to heads. A cigarette in the mouth of a leading character is far more natural than the absence of one, Belmondo brings not a caricature, but a style that was ever-present in Parisian culture of the time, one that he revels in with confidence and grace.
A film shrouded in infamy can be either a masterclass of intense conviction and striking influence, or a dud that is unworthy of its status. Thankfully, Breathless falls into a category of exceptional brilliance, its narrative strength is clear and present, brushing shoulders with strong leading characters. It has moments that will spark unrivalled passion, Godard shines through not as the pretentious oaf I had first thought him to be, but as a strong and interesting innovator, who clearly has some modicum of talent up his sleeves. He applies it aptly and consistently throughout, bringing strong performances from Belmondo and Seberg to the forefront, all while showcasing their feelings of irreverence toward living a generic, law-abiding life.