À Bout De Souffle
(Breathless)
1959

Start of Breathless – End of Cinema. Infinity has been written about the film and any further writing on the film is just a formality – a formality that every film buff must perform. At a time when Alain Resnais had made the intense drama Hiroshima, Mon Amour (1959) and when Truffaut was riding high on the success of The 400 Blows (1959), fellow Cahiers du Cinéma critic Jean-Luc Godard hit the filmmaking world with Breathless.

Breathless (1959)

Breathless (1959)

The story is as simple as it gets, which is perfect for Godard’s loosely but meticulously constructed style. A man on the run, a woman on the road, a kiss before death. It is near impossible to tell anything about the film without romanticizing it. Godard’s love for cinema shows in every moment of the film as he places charming cameos of fellow New Wave filmmakers here and there. Jean-Paul Belmondo is an instant hit with his Bogart-loving borderline-misogynistic attitude and it is no surprise that he went on to become one of the most famous French actors ever. And poor Coutard’s groundbreaking techniques are overloaded to the point of nausea nowadays. And Godard’s own contribution lies in his avoidance of being analyzed by traditional methods of film criticism as he reconstructs film grammar using the alphabets created by his own predecessors. No wonder he said retorted “Yes, A film must have a starting middle and an end, but not necessarily in that order”. He, in effect, disorients traditionally trained minds by speaking in a commonplace oral language, but in an entirely different cinematic one.

I wouldn’t hesitate to say that Breathless is the coolest thing that ever happened to cinema. And most wouldn’t deny. But that isn’t what it is all about. It revolutionized the way movies were made and more importantly, the way movies were watched. Things that we now take for granted in films – the outdoor shoot, the jump cuts (incidentally begot by a runtime crisis), the fluidity of narrative and the hand held camera work – show their roots in Breathless. No one makes movies like them any more and any close attempts seem like nothing more than cheeky use of camera and scissors. To plagiarize a quote on The Lord of the Rings book, “The movie-watching world is divided into two – ones that have seen Breathless and the ones yet to see them.”

Self-indulgence or Sheer Elegance?

Self-indulgence or Sheer Elegance?

The year was 1959. And an utterly low key film without any particular banner associated with it had released. It was directed by a relatively new actor in the industry. 50 years later, the film continues to amaze and charm audiences with the same power as it did at that time.  The actor was John Cassavetes and the film, Shadows. American underground cinema has undoubtedly been boosted by the arrival of John Cassavetes whose freedom and fluidity of characters and their emotions felt as a lease of oxygen in a studio driven defunct industry. However…

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