A True Gangster in "Breathless"

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Breathless is a film that pays homage to the gangster films in the U.S. of the 50s and 60s.From the very opening sequence, the film is very fast paced. In the first few scenes of the film, Michel, played by Jean-Paul Belmondo, not only steals a car, but he also murders a cop in the process. The story is not the only fast-moving aspect of the film. The film itself has a very head-spinning quality with the use of jump cuts, handheld camera work, and extremely long tracking shots.

From then on, he carries himself in such a way that is extremely reminiscent to the archetypal gangster characters of the same time; especially his hero, Humphrey Bogart. He constantly smokes cigarettes and rubs his lips in a similar fashion to Bogart. Besides the obvious resemblance that Michel bares to Bogart, the film itself makes reference to him a few times. In one particular scene, Michel is being shot staring at a film poster for one of Humphrey’s films.

The film possesses one other very important aspect of the 1950’s gangster films: the femme fatale character. Patricia, played by Jean Seberg, proves to be Michel’s downfall at the end of the film. Throughout the story, Michel is constantly trying to pursue Patricia, even the morning after she had slept with someone else. He does so in a way that would make any wannabe 50’s gangster proud: constantly berating her, slapping her around, yelling at her – he definitely follows the proper protocol for ‘Womanizing in the Sixties.’


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