Breathless is the English title for the famous Godard film A Bout de Souffle, which was at the forefront of the New Wave of film-making back in 1960. There was a re-make with Richard Gere in the lead role, which I haven’t seen, and I’ve only just watched the original, which stars Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg.
To call Breathless a thriller would be pushing things a bit, because it’s really a film that puts style above substance, and certainly above structure and plot. Belmondo’s character, Michel, is a petty criminal who, in a panic, shoots a police officer, and spends the rest of the film on the run. He is fascinated by an American girl called Patricia, played by Seberg, who at one point tells him she’s pregnant, and he is probably the father. The core of the film is about their relationship. What happens to Michel in the end is not exactly hard to predict.
Yet this brief outline of the story does not do the movie justice. Michel is impressed by Humphrey Bogart, and studiously tries to be as cool as Bogey. Belmondo is a charismatic actor, and this was the film that shot him to international prominence. Seberg is lovely, yet rather flaky – she is fascinated by Michel, despite disappointing him in the end.
I didn’t know much about Seberg until I read up about her after watching the film. Her real life seems to have been stranger than any fiction. She married frequently, became embroiled in controversy through her support for the Black Panthers, and committed suicide at the age of 40. Terribly sad.