This is a movie review for a french film called 'A Bout de Souffle' that I wrote for a film class that I had this past semester.
Very few films can change how films are both watched and made. Jean-Luc Godard’s ‘A Bout de Souffle’ (1959, 1960) not only changed how movies were made, but defined how they should be made. Godard’s use of editing, sound, mise en scene, and the story helped make this film regenerate new thinking on how a film should be made and begin the French New Wave of cinema.
For someone who has only watched movies that strictly stick with the classical Hollywood style of filmmaking, the editing of this film would make someone have a seizure. The most blatant “disregard for the rules” is Godard’s use of jump cuts within a scene. He would focus in on a character and as they spoke, he would jump cut to another scene while still focusing to the same character sitting in the same chair or car and the character continuing their dialogue. The scenery around them changes around them changes but the dialogue stays intact, giving the feeling that they’ve been talking for quite some time. There are many examples of this in the movie such as at the beginning of the movie when Michel is driving through the countryside at the very beginning of the movie, in the various scenes when Michel and Patricia drive about town, and when Michel and Patricia are riding in the taxi midway through the movie, among other scenes. Godard did this for a variety of reasons. Mainly, he did it to condense time, but still give the illusion of the scenes taking place over a long period of time. As well, it gave the film an edgy, rough look to it; very unpolished. Additionally, Godard did it to break the rules. This type of jump cutting within a character’s dialogue not something that was done in 1959 (and still isn’t common today) and was one of the many ways that Godard was telling everyone that films did not have to be prefabricated and conform to a set rule list.
Godard, in another attempt to shorten the time of the movie, underdramatized the some scene that, in any other movie, would have been the complete opposite and perhaps overdone. A example of this would be at the beginning of the movie when Michel shoots the police officer. Michel pulls out the gun, tells the officer he’s going to shoot him if he doesn’t leave him alone, and pulls the trigger, all within a matter of seconds. There are a couple of quick jump cuts there as well within the very short time frame. The idea of editing was actually quite brilliant. We see gun, we hear bang, we see someone fall down; therefore someone is obviously been shot and killed. Godard didn’t feel that wasting a whole lot of time on a standoff would be complementary to the story. Instead, a quick instantaneous scene of someone getting shot does the trick. As well, the editing captures Michel’s frame of mind; panicked, instinctive and scared. Paradoxically, there are scenes of nothing but pure dialogue that are quite long. In fact, there is a scene involving Michel and Patricia in her apartment that lasts over 20 minutes long. Most of that time is basically them lying in bed and talking about random stuff involving their lives and what they are thinking. Godard thought that these scenes were important because it resembles real life; people talk to each other about nothing and everything at the same time. It also humanizes the characters. We can emphasize with Michel now that we know that the he’s not simply some crook and murderer; we know now that he has feelings and concerns just like anyone else.