Out of all the films Ive seen from the French New Wave movement, I find, Breathless to be the one film that uses some of the most groundbreaking methods and techniques that shaped the identity of the French New Wave and I also find that the narrative serves as a sort of symbolic testament to the true meaning and purpose to which the French New Wave movement served. For instance,the main character, Michel, is a non-heroic protagonist. The character definitely does not have a moral center.He is basically a small-time thief that constantly lies and makes up stories; then kills a policeman and persuades a young American journalist, Patricia, to flee off to Italy with him. The narrative was definitely one to push the envelope for its time. It may sound like a Romeo and Juliet or Bonnie and Clyde model, but its more like an odd-ball love story in my opinion. The love between a nihilist and a passive-nihilist. (More later)
The technical aspects of the film which included the frequent usage of jump cuts, which according to, Godard were not intended, but in certain parts of the film, like in the scene where Michel is driving the car and he is admiring the physical features of Patricia, and as he names certain features the camera cuts to close-ups of Patricia, to which the jump cuts underline everything he describes about her features and add to the dynamic flow of the scene. There is also numerous reference to other films and actors, such as the constant lip-thing that Michel does to mimic that of, Humphrey Bogart, he even calls himself,’Bogie’. At one point, Patricia says that her name is actually, ‘Ingrid’ which would maybe imply that there was some sort of Casablanca reference to accompany the ‘Bogie’ allusion. From what I gather this film was the first to ever actually reference another film or actor in a film. There is also a scene when they escape the crime scene and sneak into a movie theater where the American western, Westbound is playing. Godard himself even makes a cameo appearance playing the informant that finally brings, Michel to justice.
Breathless is sort of like a long nihilist poem. Theres never any kind of real relation between, Michel and Patricia, besides the intimacy scene. Michel always seems to be in the brief habit form of acting. In the scene when, Patricia says, ” I wish we were Romeo and Juliet”; Michel responds by telling her that he is, “her brief habit”. They both make fun of unconditional commitment, even though she is supposed to be pregnant with his child (even though thats somewhat unclear) He seems to be happy when hes with her and in a weird ay even though shes been seduced by him she seems to be passive- contented to be with him. Michel constantly thinks of death and in his opinion it makes life more interesting. He constantly states that hes, “not afraid of death’.He seems to be unafraid and open to everything in life. Some of the interesting character traits regarding, Patricia, is that she seems to be petrified of commitment and afraid of everything. During the scene when she discusses the passage by, Faulkner, between the choice of grief or nothing-she chooses grief. She does things by half-measures. Michel does everything to the fullest measure. His egoism is to desire and steal while her egoism is to obsess with her own self and emptiness. It seems that when they look into each others eyes in the bedroom scene, that they both actually see nothing.Their relationship is like a mirror of emptines
One of the most profound lines in the movie is when, Michel says, ” I want to become immortal and then die”. Michel is fearless and a free-spirit while, Patricia is a coward and afraid of everything; She’s afraid of commitment, she’s afraid to love, shes afraid to embrace anything but her own self. Patricia tells Michel she loves him only after she sees hes shot a policeman, because she knows he has to leave. She’s a passive nihilist. At the end of the film when, Michel is running along the street, bouncing off the cars as people stare, he finally falls in the crosswalk, with his feet up in the air and take one final puff off his cigarette, as Patricia comes up from behind him, you can see that hes enjoying death. He’s dying with style as he gives Patricia the three grimaces. Her response is the typical blank look of nothingness. A sort of symbolic anser to the overall theme of the story. Back the the initial question in the earlier part of the narrative; where Patricia happily constructs a sculpture with empty packs of Lucky Strike cigarettes that spells out the word, “Pourquoi?” which means ‘why?’.
Part of my take on this film is that it may have been one big parody or symbolic argument played form Godards point-of-view (being Michel) on the the French Government and Film industry of the time and how Godard perceived himself living in it. Maybe not.