James Reviews Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless [Blu-ray Review]

When we talked, I talked about me, you talked about you, when we should have talked about each other.

Soon this site will become the Godard Cast? Or better yet, The Belmondo Cast. I think I’d be all for that one. But is that really a bad thing? One of the fathers of the French New Wave coupled with one of the essential faces of French film makes way for the quintessential granddaddy of them all, Breathless. And the Criterion Collection is releasing a brand new transfer on Blu-ray and the question isn’t should you see this film. The real question is, should you buy this new Blu-ray, especially if you already have the DVD?

Jean-Paul Belmondo exudes Humphrey Bogart level charm in his role of Michel, a petty criminal who is in over his head when he steals a car and shoots a policeman. He has nothing, not a penny in his pocket, so he runs back to his American girlfriend Patricia (the radiant Jean Seberg) and just hides out in her apartment, trying to seduce her to keep her at bay and attempting to call in a loan so they can escape to Italy together. Of course she’s a bit reluctant and when the cops start to question her about Michel, she realizes he’s on the run from the law. And it all leads to a double crossing and a wonderful tragic ending that tends to be the norm in a lot of French New Wave films. And mind you, it’s essentially a romance. A twisted, unconventional romance from a cynical point of view, but yet again love sometimes can be a bit on the other side of reality.

Just imagining this film coming from the mind of fellow former critic and writer/director François Truffaut and the influence of Orson Welles’ film Touch of Evil, shows why this film is just from someone who absolutely adores the cinema and the artistry of it and took it to that guerilla level of film making that still holds up today 50 years later. Most people criticize Quentin Tarantino when he mimics some scenes or characters or styles from older films, but just remember Godard was doing that as well with a level of love and wonder that tells us he was paying homage to earlier works. It’s still a wondrous experience to behold and after the 87 minute running time is done, you’d be hard pressed to not press play again.

The new Criterion Blu-ray upgraded edition of Breathless includes a restored high-definition digital transfer (approved by director of photography Raoul Coutard), interviews with Godard, and actors Jean Seberg and Jean-Paul Belmondo, two video essays: filmmaker and critic Mark Rappaport’s “Jean Seberg” and critic Jonathan Rosenbaum’s “Breathless as Film Criticism,” (an eighty-minute French documentary about the making of Breathless), the French theatrical trailer, and a booklet featuring writings from Godard, his own scenario, film historian Dudley Andrew and Francois Truffaut’s original film treatment.

Back in May 2010, The New York Times called the new 35mm print “immaculate and glowing” and I don’t think I could have described it any other way. Breathless is a timeless film, a classic in cinema history that deserves its rightful place in the hearts and minds of film lovers everywhere. I implore the readers out there, whoever is a reluctant Godard viewer or someone who has the original DVD: Go out there on today and buy a new copy on Blu-ray. I can’t describe the actual joy one gets from seeing this film, but if you’re reading this review, I think you have an idea.

Plus it has one of the cutest and simplest trailers ever for a film.


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