Michel Poiccard (Jean-Paul Belmondo), an ex-airline steward turned hoodlum, steals a car and heads to Paris. Discovering a gun in the car's glove department, he uses it to shoot and kill a cop who tries to wave him down. He wants to escape to Italy with his American girlfriend Patricia (Jean Seberg), but the police are after him, and he is distracted by all the pleasures Paris has to offer.
Story-wise, Jean-Luc Godard's A Bout De Souffle (1960) (aka Breathless) is pretty thin, but as its director always proclaimed, you don't need much in the way of narrative to make a movie. Sometimes a girl and a gun are quite enough. The effortlessly cool and laconic Belmondo mirrors the director's mischief and flamboyance. With his fat cigarette stub perched on his bottom lip, his shades, his felt hat and white socks, he looks like a cross between a left-bank intellectual and an American gumshoe (perhaps his beloved Bogart). With her close-cropped hair and New York Herald Tribune T-shirt, his girlfriend (Jean Seberg) is equally stylish. A Hollywood star (she had appeared in the lead in Otto Preminger's Saint Joan in 1957 when she was still a teenager), the Iowa-born Seberg is turned by Godard into the lithe embodiment of European radical chic.
The film has a spontaneity that studio-bound offerings of the time missed by a mile. Cameraman Raoul Coutard uses natural light and real locations whenever possible. Lots of the pet tricks in the movie--jump cuts, whip pans and improvised tracking shots--have been copied relentlessly by imitators ever since. A Bout De Souffle, though, is unique: anarchic, liberating and hugely stylish, "the best film around now", as its trailer proclaimed. It made Godard, almost overnight, into "the world's most discussed, interviewed and quoted filmmaker". --Geoffrey Macnab
On the DVD: Godard's greatest movie has been lovingly transferred to disc by Optimum, and comes with several extras including trailers and production notes and an old Godard short, Charlotte Et Son Jules, also starring the swaggering, arrogant Belmondo. --Geoffrey Macnab