For a better experience on MUBI, update your browser.
Critics reviews
Breathless
Jean-Luc Godard France, 1960
I was about fifteen or sixteen, and up until then I’d only seen commercial movies, so this really overwhelmed me and rocked my world. For the first time, my idea of what a film could be was broadened, and in my mind it took on so many different nuances.
December 03, 2018
Read full article
Each character drains the romance from the other’s point of view, making Breathless a singularly penetrating film noir that still jars after more than 50 years.
August 17, 2016
Read full article
This breaking of the fourth wall extends to the film’s final shot… The Bogie impersonation has passed from Michel to Patricia – it’s cinema as viral infection. The gun shot that ends one picture acts as the starting shot for a new era. Godard himself saw his film as the final movement in a reinvigoration of French cinema; he declared: "A certain kind of cinema has just drawn to a close, maybe ended, so let’s add the finishing touches, let’s show that anything goes.
November 27, 2015
Godard’s bold, cinematic shake-up wouldn’t have the impact it did were it not for the cool confidence of Belmondo, who in staring down a poster of Bogart, inspires a whole history of postmodernism in movies.
September 14, 2012
Read full article
One of Godard’s (and our culture’s) reflex images, so acute and apt that it remains sharply in focus for anyone who cares about the cinema, about the West in 1960, or about ourselves at the onset of the twenty-first century.
September 14, 2010
Read full article
The film’s stylistic breakthroughs have been so influential as to seem familiar now—particularly the newsreel-like cinematography and randomly employed jump-cuts (which Jonathan Rosenbaum has compared to “a needle skipping gaily across a record”). But beneath the carefree attitude is a rich poetic sensibility, arguably the one consistent trait throughout Godard’s varied body of work.
June 18, 2010
Read full article
With its jazzy, staccato rhythms and endless referencing of other films and filmmakers, Breathless makes alienation look like it was a lot more fun in 1960 than in the ponderous gravitas or ante-upping brutality of indie film today. The jaunty insouciance with which these two beauties approach and avoid, rescue and betray, carry their lengthy existential chats from death to ashtrays to Rolls-Royces without blinking an eye, remains as intoxicating as ever—for moviegoers of a certain age.
May 25, 2010
Read full article
It wasn’t until I sat down and re-watched Breathless—in a beautifully restored new 35mm print—that I remembered that its sleek surface charms, while hardly insubstantial, don’t really account for why we keep watching it so many decades later. Rather, what remains most striking, and most moving, about Breathless is its sophisticated yet largely guileless faith in the filmic medium, a cinephilia untainted by smugness or cynicism.
May 25, 2010
Read full article
It’s a fast-running current that draws you in and carries you along with it. This is a movie that moves. Raoul Coutard’s camera circles and soars, and Michel (Jean-Paul Belmondo), the gangster whose killing of a cop at the start of the film has him on the run, seems to be in perpetual motion… Watching this glamorous pair, the prickly pragmatist and the narcissistic romantic, parry and thrust their way through some of the most beautiful parts of Paris is pure cinematic pleasure.
May 20, 2010
Read full article
I don’t so much recollect my first reactions to Breathless as find myself involuntarily possessed by them, or rather inextricably embedded in them. I cannot report on Breathless as it looks now because it will never lose for me its original mesmeric fascination.
May 01, 2010
Read full article
Breathless was a one-off, but never arbitrary. And unlike those other monolithic, epochal films that changed the face of narrative cinema (Citizen Kane, 2001, Pulp Fiction), Godard’s film still feels slippery, and so self-consciously clever that we feel like we may never fully grasp its intentions. It’s fun, but never easy, even if it seems like Godard’s most accessible. All filmmakers should strive for such simultaneous clarity and obfuscation.
May 08, 2008
Read full article
…It is in many ways one of the movies’ most compelling invitations to dreaming… Generally considered the seminal moment of the nouvelle vague,Breathless is genuinely postmodern in that it breaks most traditional rules of storytelling, performance and even form, sprinting from one point to another by cutting into scenes to eliminate pauses and anything else non-essential from the largely improvised action.
November 01, 2007
Read full article
You Could watch “Breathless” a hundred times and see something new every viewing: a shot framed in a way you had never quite parsed before, or a jump-cut that simultaneously, weirdly, both truncates time and elongates it.
September 09, 2007
Read full article
Godard’s novel method was not only the practical springboard for his formal and intellectual inventions, it was a part of them. Breathless would be an “action film” in the sense of “action painting”: the act and the moment of making the film were as much a part of the work’s meaning as its specific content and style. As such, it would be the first existentialist film.
May 13, 2007
He keeps calling her a coward, and she tenderly pokes fun at the French, but the scene deepens and becomes despairing as Godard holds his camera on Seberg, who is asked to carry the entirety of the film’s existential burden, which she does with real grace under pressure… If Breathless is maybe his most human movie, surely it is due to Seberg and what she brought to the camera.
May 01, 2007
Read full article
Who doesn’t like Breathless? It’s some kind of free-wheeling comic experiment in cool, and it works the whole way.
April 20, 2004
Shot on a shoestring and none the worse for it, Jean-Luc Godard’s gritty and engaging first feature had an almost revolutionary impact when first released in 1960. It lays down most of the Godardian repertoire that the later films would build upon: male bravado spiced with plug-ugly mugging and amusing self-mockery (brought to perfection in Jean-Paul Belmondo’s wonderful performance)…
October 22, 2003
Read full article
Godard’s canny homage-cum-critique of movie tropes didn’t stir me to my core, but then one of its chilly virtues is an active resistance to such easy identification. A bout de soufflé did surprise me by being as fresh in its playfulness, irritability, and intelligence as I’d secretly hoped it would be, but it also turned out to be as dated and emotionally intractable as expected.
March 01, 2002
Read full article
…Godard just went at the film with the scissors, cutting out anything he thought boring and as a result the whole movie does indeed feel rather ‘breathless’, each scene seeming to rush jerkily to a finish, with barely enough time to make full sense. Who would have ever guessed that what is now a cinematic cliché (at its most excessive in the late ‘60s and the ’70s) could have had so practical a raison d’etre?
March 01, 2002
Read full article
Appearing at a time when the medium was in danger of calcification, Breathless recklessly broke or blithely ignored most of the rules that D.W. Griffith had established four decades previously, substituting visual panache and philosophical meandering for such traditional mainstays as plot and character. Even when seen from today’s perspective, long after its innovations have been co-opted by Hollywood, it’s still capable of startling.
April 06, 2000
Read full article
The first masterstroke in Godard’s critical vision of the cinema as a mixed form. He slashes the material of a killer on the run, reassembles the fragments in between expressively winding scenes of camera and character movements, punctuates Raoul Coutard’s impromptu street shooting with D. W. Griffith’s iris dissolves, pivots from comedy to tragedy, from documentary to Murnau to Mickey Mouse, and ends with the enigmatic image of Seberg suggesting that a pretty girl is like a metaphor.
January 01, 1983
Read full article
I see Breathless again, not without a little irritation gnawing at me as I think how moral I’ve become, and what sort of social consciousness is it that leads me to condemn this flaunting young hoodlum, all the while secretly preferring, by some curious double standard, the maturer nihilism of Weekend… Is Breathless passé? Yes, to those of us who can only live in the present… Godard himself will disown Breathless because he is a crusader, and Breathless is a classic for which he has no use.
May 11, 1972
What’s new about A bout de souffle? To begin with, the way characters are conceived. Godard never uses a particularly precise line in the way he sketches his characters; instead, he follows – consciously – a series of contradictory directions. Godard is an instinctive creator, and rather than logic per se (which he was happy enough to follow in his first, tentative efforts, but which he is now too lazy to follow – and I don’t think it interests him), he follows the logic of his instinct.
April 01, 1960