Jean-Luc Godard wrote and directed the 1960 French criminal drama movie Breathless. It stars Jean-Paul Belmondo as Michel, a traveling criminal, and Jean Seberg as Patricia, his American girlfriend. Godard’s first feature-length film marked the beginning of Belmondo’s career as an actor.
Breathless is one of the most significant and early movies of the French New Wave. It gave widespread attention to new kinds of French cinema, alongside François Truffaut’s The 400 Blows and Alain Resnais’ Hiroshima mon amour, both released a year earlier. Breathless drew a lot of attention at the time because of its unique visual design, which included unusual jump cuts.
The picture drew over two million spectators in France when it was first released. It has since been regarded as one of the best films ever made, with frequent appearances in Sight & Sound magazine’s annual polls of filmmakers and critics on the subject. To commemorate the film’s 50th anniversary, a fully restored version was released in the United States in May 2010.
Breathless was partially based on a piece in The News in Brief that François Truffaut read. Michel Poiccard is based on Michel Portail, a real-life Frenchman, and his American girlfriend, journalist Beverly Lynette. In November 1952, while visiting his sick mother in Le Havre, Portail stole a car and killed a motorcycle cop called Grimberg.
‘The seminal importance of the picture was recognized instantly,’ noted Richard Brody in his 2008 biography of Godard. Godard was awarded the Jean Vigo Prize in January 1960, a year before the film’s debut, to ‘support an auteur of the future.’ Breathless premiered in Paris in a chain of four commercial theaters, where it sold 259,046 tickets in four weeks.