Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Breathless (1960)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Breathless (1960, Fr.) (aka A Bout de Souffle)

French director Jean-Luc Godard's landmark New Wave film, his first feature film:

  • the film's first line of dialogue, the musings of a male speaker (voice-over and off-screen): "After all, I'm an asshole" - coming from the lips of young and vulgar Parisian thug and wanted car thief Michel Poiccard/alias Laszlo Kovacs (Jean-Paul Belmondo), who was reading a newspaper in Marseilles; he was smoking a cigarette, and traced his thumb over both closed lips (a trademark gesture)
  • the sequence (after stealing an automobile in Marseilles) of his murder of a motorcycle policeman in the countryside - with a magnification of his gun; shortly later, he read in a newspaper in Paris that he had been identified as the killer
  • his meeting up with flighty American girlfriend Patricia Franchini (Jean Seberg) from New York, an aspiring journalist who he had known for only a few weeks; he located her selling newspapers (the New York Herald Tribune) on a street in Paris, where he repeatedly flattered her looks and tried to convince her to join him in Rome: "Come with me to Rome? It's crazy but I love you. I wanted to see if I'd be glad to see you again" - as the camera followed behind them and overheard their conversation, and then they reversed themselves
  • while wandering around Paris later that day, the sequence of Michel pausing outside of a movie theatre and looking dreamily in a mirror, as he gazed at a poster for the film The Harder They Fall with a picture of star idol Humphrey Bogart; he reverently and simply whispered "Bogie" as he mimed his hero, blew out wispy smoke from his cigarette, and traced his thumb over both closed lips
'Bogie' Homage
  • the use of break-through jump cuts during the aimless discussion between Michel and Patricia while he drove his stolen convertible through Paris to take her to a lunchtime appointment (with the camera focusing from behind her for nearly the entire sequence); he kept pressuring to see her and make love and that he really needed her, when she asked: "Why are you so sad?"; in a dramatic tone, he told her: "Alas, alas, alas, I love a girl who has a nice neck, nice breasts, a nice voice, nice wrists, a nice forehead, nice knees, but she's such a coward!"
  • the lunchtime scene on an outside balcony in Montparnesse when Patricia told journalist Van Doude (Himself) about her personal unhappiness: "If I could dig a hole and hide in it, I would. I don't know if I'm unhappy because I'm not free, or if I'm not free because I'm unhappy"
  • the over 20-minute scene of Patricia returning to her apartment and being surprised to find Michel there in her bed - where they chatted, flirted, smoked, and fought - often with wailing sirens heard through the open window and drowning out the character’s dialogue; he expressed dissatisfaction that she wouldn't commit to him and kept insisting on making love to her: "I want to sleep with you again because you're beautiful" - although she was more romantically inclined: "I want us to be like Romeo and Juliet"; they played a macabre game that he described: "I'll count to 8. If by 8 you haven't smiled, I'll strangle you"; she also divulged a possibility of her bearing his child: "I'm pregnant, Michel" - when he asked if it was his, she replied: "I think so" - he blamed her: "You should've been more careful!"; he alternated between insulting her looks and personality and praising her for her charming, pretty self - she responded: "Say what you like, I don't care"; eventually, she was worn down and made love to him
  • the brief scene of Patricia - after covering for Michel when asked by authorities about his whereabouts - phoning Inspector Vital to betray him to the police: "I've just seen the fellow you're looking for"; shortly after, she told Michel: "I don't want to be in love with you. That's why I called the police. I stayed with you to see if I was in love with you. Or if I wasn't. And since I'm being cruel to you, it proves I'm not in love with you"
  • the shoot-out ending: Michel was convinced and resigned to giving himself up: "I've had enough. I'm tired, I want to sleep...Damn the police, I'll save my neck" - but he fired a gun at police; return gunfire lethally wounded him and he jogged down a street holding his bloody lower back (with Patricia running after him); after a long tracking shot, he collapsed near the middle of an intersection; she ran up to his body, placed one hand over most of her face and looked down at him; after making grotesque and grimacing faces, he uttered these last icy words to her: (there are many different translated versions of the French phrase: "C'est pas vraiment degueulasse"): "Makes me want to puke" or "You're a real louse (creep, scumbag, or bitch)" or possibly: "I am a real creep"; she asked a policeman: "What did he say?" just before he died; she was told: "He said you make him want to puke" (or she made him feel nauseated, disgusted, or sick: "He said you're a real creep (or bitch)" or "He said you're a real scumbag" or "He said you're a real louse")
The Shoot-Out Ending: Michel's Death
  • in the ending, she stared directly at the camera and responded by imitating Michel, but again asking impassively what the words meant: "What's that mean, puke?" (or "What's a 'creep'?" "What's a 'louse'?" or "'A little what?' I don't understand"), as she ran her thumb across her upper lower lip; she then abruptly turned around - from the camera, audience, everyone, and the film ended with blackness

Film Opening: Parisian Thug Michel

Michel Identified as Police Murderer

Michel's US Girlfriend Patricia Selling Newspapers

Michel's Car Ride with Patricia

Michel In Patricia's Apartment


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