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Breathless Macro Notes

November 29, 2010

Download Link: FS5 WORLD CINEMA_New_Waves_Macro_French



On the level of Narrative and Genre, Breathless is both oppositional and salutary to Hollywood filmmaking.



  • The film does use a loose 3 act structure, but is far more haphazard and spontaneous than the mainstream would have been. There are scenes that seem to serve to seem no purpose for example, like the scene where the author is being interviewed, or Michel’s rambling around Paris.



  • It is through the concept of Genre, that Breathless is its most intertextual ( a referring to other texts) as it contains many of the conventions of Hollywood Gangster/Film Noir films
  • Patricia can be seen as a ‘Femme Fatale’ in that she proves to be Michel’s undoing and is sexually liberated. This character ‘type’ was heavily used in Film Noir.
  • Michel, as a likeable rogue, a man audiences both loathe and admire, who tries to, but cannot finally escape is highly referential to the figure of the gangster. His crimes are caused not by malice, but by his inability to conform. The theme of ‘getting out’ was often used in gangster films.
  • The iconography of both genres are used: Guns, Cars, Police.
  • The references are made clear when Michel salutes Bogey, Humphrey Bogart being famous for his roles in film Noir, especially as private detective Phillip Marlowe in the  Big Sleep. So Michel salutes the main star of a genre to which the film is referencing.

At the level of the macro, then, the film is not so much oppositional but affectionate towards American film. There are 2 things to take note of however:


  1. The Film Noir was not a French genre, so the film is oppositional on a National level
  2. In an American Noir, the sexually promiscuous ‘Femme Fatale’ is always either killed or institutionalised at the resolution of the narrative. This, in a patriarchal sense, to punish her for sleeping with more than one man or for using men by tempting them sexually. Not only is Patricia not punished, but in the very last frame of the film she seems to not even be remorseful. The film therefore challenges the conventional Film Noir.




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