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Breathless Micro Notes

November 29, 2010

Download Link: FS5 WORLD CINEMA_New_Waves_Micro_French



Due mainly to the mode of production in which the films were shot, a certain New Wave style was developed that challenged the conventions of mainstream cinema and foregrounded the mise-en-scene as the principal area of artistic expression. Many have accused New-Wave filmmaking as being concerned with style first, and content second, but this ignores the fact that the style is in itself a reflection of the spirit of the time, the young, dynamic characters the films represent and the non-conformist attitudes they sought to communicate. One of the most important things about the style, is the opposition between realistic, almost documentary-like camerawork, and a stylized mise-en-scene. This serves to both engross viewers and make them aware that they are watching a film at the same time. In many ways this exposes the nature of what we believe to be true on the screen as well as our own conceptions of reality.

The important thing is that this is another area in which the New-Wave was oppositional.





·     Realistic décor, location shooting.

·     Naturalistic lighting: realistic and documentary-like.

·     Props feature ‘iconographic’ elements of the American Film-Noir/Gangster genres ( the Gun, The American cars)

·     Costumes are stylish and fashionable. Michel wears suits in the same way that a gangster might. Patricia is the height of sixties fashion.

·     The performances are naturalistic and, at times, improvised.

·     Michel addresses the camera in the beginning, which breaks the viewer’s suspension of disbelief

·     All these factors contribute to a particularly stylish, cool reality. The emotional realism is true, but the distinction between the technical and visual creates a subjective interpration.

·     The Iconographic elements in the props and the Costumes are important. Many have argued that Breathless was Godard’s ‘homage’ to Hollywood filmmaking. This especially evident in the scene where Michel salutes a Humphrey Bogart poster with the word “Bogey’.




·     Hand-held camerawork (mainstream filmmaking would use static shots on a tripod, and tracks and dollys when movement was required)

·     Grainy, ultra-fast black and white film stock-feel of a documentary.

·     Improvised camera set-ups, composition and framing.

·     Though these elements may not seem radical now, they were then and were clearly challenging the status-quo.




·     The use of Jump-Cuts (edits that break the 180 degree rule) to deliberately break The continuity system of editing which makes cuts seem invisible. Makes audiences realize that they are watching a film)

·     Michel addressing the camera (see Mise-En-Scene)

·     The use of Long-takes (shots where there are no cuts for a long time, mainstream filmmaking uses lots of cutting so as not to bore Audiences) especially in the scene where Michel goofs around Patricia’s flat.




·     On-set sound recording. This was unusual in that most sound was post-synchronised in mainstream film, with actors speaking out their lines in mixing studios after the film had been shot. Some of the dialogue in Brethless was indeed post-synchronised due to technical issues, but where it wasn’t there is a heightened sense of immediacy.

·     A funky, ‘cool’ contemporary jazz soundtrack. In the late 50’s, Jazz had been associated with various underground, sub-cultural groups, especially the ‘Beat-Generation’ who saw the spontaneity and improvisational qualities of jazz as template for a new way of living; spontaneous and care-free; ‘in the moment’. The use of a Jazz soundtrack, therefore, both locates the film as being young and contemporary as well as reflecting the lives of the characters it portrays, who do indeed live in the moment.






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