Made in 1960, Breathless was directed by French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard. Based on a story by François Truffaut, Breathless was Godard’s first feature film. The thirty-year-old director started out as a movie critic for magazine Cahiers du Cinéma. In the leading role of small-time thief Michel Poiccard, Goddard cast Jean-Paul Belmondo.
Breathless co-starred Jean Seberg as Patricia Franchini, a young American woman Michel falls for. After stealing a car in Marseilles one morning, Michel flees the city. Chased by police, his car breaks down in the countryside. Michel tries to hide, then impulsively murders the policeman who pursues him.
Michel goes to Paris, where he meets friend Patricia. Without telling her about the murder, he asks her to run away with him. She refuses. As the police close in on him, Michel looks for Antonio Barriaga, a friend who owes him money. Michel cannot find him. A day later, police pay a visit to Patricia and tell her about the murder. Patricia first pretends she doesn't know Michel, then relents, but does not know where he is.
That evening, Michel and Patricia wander the streets of Paris, spending the night in the photo studio of a friend. The next morning, Patricia phones police and gives them the address of their hideout. Overcome with guilt, she warns Michel. Disheartened by the betrayal, Michel decides not to run. He walks out into the street where is shot and killed by police. Applauded by moviegoers and critics alike, Breathless was rejected by the Cannes Film Festival in 1960 but won a Silver Bear for Best Director at the Berlin International Film Festival.
Innovative in style and for the themes addressed, Godard’s film is an essay on the inner chaos that pervades contemporary society. By breaking away from traditional film and editing rules, Breathless also became a prime example of New Wave, a movement of young French directors who revolutionized filmmaking.