Breathless (À bout de souffle)
Produced by Les Productions Georges de Beauregard
Written and directed by Jean-Luc Godard
Distributed by Rialto Pictures
This past May, French director Jean-Luc Godard’s first feature film, Breathless (À bout de souffle), was rereleased in a new print on its 50th anniversary. It was briefly screened in various American cities before its release on DVD. In New York it played at the Film Forum, a theater in lower Manhattan dedicated to screening revivals and independent films, where, as it happens, I first saw it in 1975. Quelle nostalgie!
In 1960, Breathless won a modest reception in Europe and the United States. By 1975, however, it had become so armored with critical and scholarly adulation that its place in the cinematic pantheon had become unshakable. It was hailed as the breakthrough movie of the second half of the 20th century, a latter-day Citizen Kane, a rewriting of the very grammar of film. Why had this happened? For two reasons, I believe. First, it became widely known that Godard had been an enthusiastically prolific, if factually unreliable, film critic before becoming a director. This surely endeared him to those who scribble about film, and they, of course, are in charge of shaping the public’s cinematic...