ByShayne Metcalfe, writer at

Breathless (1960) is not as “stock” a Film Noir as Noir pictures produced in the early phases. Emerging out of the French New Wave the film follows the story of Michelle. His first line “So I’m a son of a bitch. After all it’s gotta’ be done. It has to” defines Michelle. He’s neither hero of anti-hero, but the main character. Michelle is running from the law after an auto theft. He ends up killing a cop and flees to Paris. In Paris he meets Patricia, a young student from the US and they eventually have a fling. Michelle invites Patricia to Italy. Michelle avoids the cops trying to get enough money for Italy. Eventually Patricia finds out Michelle is a wanted man and is faced with a choice . She gives him up and Michelle is gunned down by police.

Breathless would influence future productions including Bonnie and Clyde (1967) and creates distinct variation in the Film Noir genre. Godard introduced jump cuts which were not a normal cutting style at the time. The reason for this style of editing was necessity. Godard did jump cuts to shorten the movie as opposed to doing them for stylistic reasons. He simply removed what he thought were boring parts. The approach works and did become a style. He also employed handheld camera work. This shooting style would influence future films outside of the Noir genre. The introduction of “MTV style” editing jumps cuts and handheld work that would appear years later has roots in Breathless.

Another variation is Michelle is not seduced by the Femme Fatale. He does the seducing and Patricia is an empowered female that seems in part attracted to his gangster lifestyle. Michelle commits murder at the beginning of the film. So instead of a whodunnit we watch him try and stay ahead of the detectives trying to find him. Michelle is quite different than the Welles character. Michelle womanizes, steals and kills early in the film. Where as Welles rescues a damsel in distress early in The Lady From Shanghai. Michelle is a bad guy and a sociopath that gets what he deserves when Jean betrays him. Welles on the other hand is more of a fool in love with the wrong woman, but in the end he walks away.


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