‘a Bout De Souffle’ By Jean-luc Godard

Jean-Luc Godard’s first feature length film, A bout de souffle, (1960), is a seminal work of the Nouvelle Vague, and a classic example of the subtle humour and cinematographic grace of French cinema.

The story follows young criminal Michel (Jean-Paul Belmondo), who, after stealing a car, shoots and accidentally kills a police officer during his escape. He flees to Paris, where he meets his American sweetheart Patricia (Jean Seberg), and spends the rest of the film trying to persuade her to run away with him. The combination of the use of jump cuts, shots filmed on a handheld camera, and scenes created on location in the streets of 1960s Paris, make this work both raw and charming, artistic and natural all at the same time: a perfect example of the style of the Nouvelle Vague. Patricia’s elegance and beauty, paired with Michel’s cheeky, boyish appeal, create a pairing which is endlessly watchable and interesting, compelling you to follow their story and to invest in their relationship.

The importance of A bout de souffle was immediately recognised by critics, who awarded Godard the Prix Jean Vigo in 1960, the same year that he won Best Director at the Berlin International Film Festival. Its popularity has endured, to this day, and it was even placed at No. 13 in Sight and Sound magazine’s list of the best films of all time in 2012. As well as being so widely acclaimed, the film is also very relatable for people who are trying to learn French. Patricia’s speaks with a soft American accent, and often has to ask Michel the meaning of words and expressions. There are several sequences in which the couple fail to understand each other, creating a sense of a breakdown in communication which may be familiar to anyone who has moved to France and is trying to master the language.

a still of Patricia and Michel