The Literary and Arts Magazine of Lehman College

Breathless Jumps




Dir. Jean-Luc Godard


Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless, after it came out in 1960 (post-war), refashioned the modern cinema for good: it broke open the shell of same-old Hollywood film-making, pushed the dragging pace by inventing the “jump-cut” technique, and aided in the launch of the all-so-essential French New Wave to movie-making shores everywhere. None of this quite made sense to the shining lead, Jean-Paul Belmondo, who thought their movie was so bad that they wouldn’t even get the permission to release it. Jean Seberg, the female lead, despised Godard’s shooting methods, but then had decided that he was the director, the one to blame. Godard, the director, thought Breathless’s success was just a mistake (the sort he didn’t regret). That was the scene and sentiment around the release; today you just don’t criticize Breathless without receiving an earful.

Breathless is an experiment. Sad news is that there is no escaping that. A Humphry Bogart enthusiast thief steals a car, rubs his lips with his thumb and makes faces, kills a cop, rubs his lips with his thumb and makes faces, and tries to convince his hip American girlfriend to elope with him to Italy, while also simultaneously informing her how stupid she is ––implying that that is so because she is a woman.

Two stylish modern-day lovers… random points on female organs, sex, existentialism, youth, art, and literature… in jump shots, and there you have Breathless.

What bothers me is the desperation with which it asserts its ideas. At some point in the film, there’s a cameo from another important French director, Jean-Pierre Melville, who plays an important celebrity Parvulesco and whom our lead Patricia interviews as part of her journalism assignment. “What is your greatest ambition in life?” she repeatedly asks. Parvulesco takes his time and replies, “To become immortal… and then die.” Um, really? Now that exchange might have been a satirical attempt or another struggle to get as close to real life as it can, but when it arrives, you are reminded that this movie is an effort, a constant effort, served to you with really last-minute changes. ––That is how the jump-shots were invented: in the editing room, at last-minute, with an ambition to provide the movie with a true-to-life rushed pace. However, it wouldn’t surprise me if you too found out that Breathless is out of breath not because of its rush but because of its, say, jump-drag.

“Squealers squeal, burglars burgle, killers kill, lovers love,” our lead believes. And given that logic, I’d conclude movies move… this one is an exception––it jumps, and, ah, it doesn’t quite make it to my liking!

~ Hardik Yadav