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(DIR) Breathless_ Film Essay_ Directing


A bright day, a handsome guy opens a car door with a too. His italian bright grey suit shines. He is leaving the city and a cute girl toward the country. The car was supposed to be unfamiliar to the guy, yet it looks like he has been driving the car over a decade. The level of the the familiarity and comfortableness making me feel it’s okay to steal the car. This is the first scene of Breathless. Unlike other classical pictures, early french new wave films make audiences to be the character itself. The cinema became an experience than watching a show. Breathless specifically crosses a lots of “conventional” classical Hollywood pictures that don’t have. His purpose of showing this film was simple. Creating a picture that don’t follow the conventional rule, but it should work to audience. Specificity of showing a duration of time using long take, Usage of L-cut and Jump cut in a same time, and improvisation of shooting on a street with almost guerilla style films.

One of my favorite scene in the Breathless is the long take in a travel agency to find Michael’s friend, Mr. Tolmachov. Michel visited the office to get his money back. It started from the Dolly in, as Michel enters the office, but the shot becomes handheld tracking two shots. Michel eventually got another information during the scene that he needs to contact Antonio for getting back his money. However, Antonion isn’t available at the moment. Michel leaves the office, at that moment, coincidentally the french cops is arrived at the office. Cops were so close to catch him like that. If Jean Luc Godard didn’t choose the long take, the effect of the coincidental moment wouldn’t be as effective as the scene.

Handheld long take creates the feeling of presence in the scene. It’s in a fine line between “Documenatary”, and a live action/ fiction film. Again, this long take/handheld tracking shot technique has been used in current filmmaking extensively such as “Saving Private Ryan”, “The Place Beyond Pines”, “Black Swan”, “In the Mood for Love”, and etcs… Jean Luc Godard discovered an amateuristic, unbalanced, super-improvised, and shaking shot becomes a scene that we can’t forget. Jean Luc Godard broke the rule, and it becomes the standard in camera movement currently.

Breathless’s Jump cut is working, it’s because Jean Luc Godard also used “L-Cut and J-cut” Although, the time on a car is passing, traffic sounds, car engine sounds, all the sounds are consistent. In his transition, the sound is always comes first. If the room tone isn’t working, Godard insert a theme song to keep that continuity. His jump cut isn’t based on the “saving time” per se. His jump cut adds the intensity, and pace of the scene. One of the car jump cut scene, he used the jump cut based on the “rhythms” of dialog. Michel says “ Alas alas Alas! I love a girl who has a nice neck, nice breast(cut), nice voice(Cut) a nice wrist, a nice forehead, nice knees” When you hear the background sounds, you can hear the constant background sounds again. He used “L-cut, Jump-cut, and rhythmic montage technique(Sergei Eisenstein)

Many critiques, constantly argued that his jump cut is coming out from experimental purposes. However, his sound design and editing technique certainly followed many hidden rules. He just used it extensively. Currently his L-cut, ADR, and voice over technique is used in many films. For instance, Forrest Gump used it, Saving Private Ryan used the L-cut in the beginning, and almost all the editors in cinema used J-cut for a transitions as a transitions. Chan Wook Park however, uses this Jump Cut and match cut and J-cut in a same time. Jean Luc Godard showed us, how to cut based on the rhythm, and sound design instead of based on planning.

If you had a choice between showing the street of Paris as it is, or recreate the paris on a set for control light and blocking? Jean Luc Godard chose to show us Paris as it is. Usage of Natural light, chose to shoot on location, show ordinary french citizens as background, give us the what it feels to be in Paris. One of the basic understanding of Mise En scene is that place your character on an environment, and it must be serving a story. Does Jean Luc Godard’s choice of shooting on location worked? Yes it does. Hitchicock’s rear window doesn’t give me a feeling of reality comparing to Godard’s Breathless.

Again, comparing to Hitchcock’s The Rear Window and Breathless, you can see scale of production at first. Jean Luc Godard spent almost nothing comparing to The Rear Window’s scale of recreation of New York’s apartment sets. The concepts are different, but both of the film try to show us the indirect experience of what it feels to be in both cities. One shows actual street, and other one shows specific view and location of the rear side of brownstone apartment. We can’t say, which is better or which is right. But Jean Luc Godard showed us that no money doesn’t mean that you can’t create a picture. Ironically, this low budget film gives us the presence of being in a chaotic city as much as much bigger project like the rear window.

At the end, Jean Luc Godard certainly surprised the film industry breaking the rules of editing, production scale, and conventional cinematography in fiction film world. Currently, Jean Luc Godard’s film has been influential to young filmmakers to think what, how, where, why do you need to break the rules in cinema, and how it affected on audience. Late 1800s, people used to say “Art for Art’s sake”, Godard threw us a question “Why do we need to keep the rule, if we want to make an art?” If we didn’t question ourselves a such a question, wouldn’ that be the end of developing cinema?

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