The Breath of Life for French Cinema
Paper by Kristin Lai. Viewed on DVD.
The famous French director Jean-Luc Godard once said “All you need for a movie is a gun and a girl.” (Godard). This advice may seem simple, but it is the cornerstone to Godard’s most notable work “A Bout de Soufflé” (1960), more commonly known as “Breathless”. With this film Godard intended to escape traditional French filmmaking by trading the high costs and complicated stories of French films in exchange for the artistic freedom that comes with a lower budget and a simple story. The plot of “Breathless” is no more complicated than a boy who gets involved with a girl and a gun. Despite the simplicity of the plot this film evokes complex emotions and requires some thinking and interpretation from its viewers due to the unique approach Godard took in telling the story. The viewer gains more from what is inferred by Godard’s chosen medium of self-expression than by what is simply presented before them.
“Breathless” was written by Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut and directed by Godard. Together, along with cinematographer Raoul Coutard, they created a style of filmmaking that has since been replicated time and time again: French New Wave Cinema, which marked the start of the neo-noir movement. This low-budget film is considered to be a point at which filmmakers sought to make films more artistic and stylized, less costly, and therefore more interesting, unique, and thought provoking. The influence “Breathless” and Jean-Luc Godard have had on filmmaking since the release of the film has been exponential. This film changed the face of filmmaking with its radical use of camerawork, breaking the rules of continuity editing, loose character dialogue, and overall stylistic quality. “Breathless “has been held in high regard throughout the world of cinema since its release in 1960.
Godard’s passion for film was already well established by the time he was an adult. This passion led him to meet Francois Truffaut and Jacques Rivette, both of who became well-respected cinematographers and directors, respectively, in their own right. Together they wrote a monthly editorial La Gazette du Cinéma and later Cahiers du Cinéma, a more popular magazine, in which they could publish critiques and pieces about filmmaking theory (“Biography” n.d.). During Godard’s time writing for Cahiers du Cinéma he, like many of his fellow critics, began making films. Godard met Georges de Beauregard, a producer who was willing to fund Godard’s vision of “Breathless” (Andrew, 2007). When the film was released in 1960 it gained recognition all over the world for its inventiveness and creative approach to filmmaking. Consequently Godard became one of the fathers of the New Wave movement. Since “Breathless” Jean-Luc Godard has written seventy-eight films and directed ninety-five. At eighty-one Godard continues making films, his most recent having been released in 2010 (“Jean-Luc” n.d.). Also in 2010, Godard was presented with an Academy Honorary Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) “For passion. For confrontation. For a new kind of cinema.” (“Jean-Luc-Honorary Award” 2010).
“Breathless” takes place in Paris, France in the late 1950’s. The Post World War II era in France left people feeling generally defeated and ill-fated. It was a time of economic depression, civil unrest, and political instability. The consciousness of an entire nation in economic and social despair led filmmakers like Truffaut, Godard, and Resnais to make films that are pertinent to the time period and that speak to real people. This was the beginning of the French New Wave movement. The movement was influenced by Italian neo-realism which focuses on real life people with real life struggles. “Breathless” puts two realistic characters with realistic problems together. The audience is introduced to the protagonist, Michel Poiccard played by Jean-Paul Belmondo, a petty young criminal who steals a car and subsequently shoots a police officer. He fancies himself to be much rougher than he really is. He is handsome in an unconventional and unintimidating way which attracts the audience to him. We are introduced to Godard’s influence as an auteur very early on as there are unexpected camera angles and Michel breaks the fourth wall by talking directly to the audience. Michel makes it into Paris in hopes of convincing the American girl he has recently fallen in love with, Patricia Franchini played by Jean Seberg, to flee the country with him. Patricia is young, confused, and desired by men aside from Michel which makes her all the more irresistible to him. Patricia, who at does not know what Michel has done, lets him hide in her apartment and tells him that she might be pregnant with his child. The audience follows the ups and downs of their tumultuous relationship as they struggle to figure out one another. Michel is portrayed as cunning and self-assured; he likens himself to his idol Humphrey Bogart. This contrasts Patricia’s character who comes off as naïve and cautious, or cowardly as Michel calls her. Throughout the duration of the film it not clearly specified by Patricia whether she truly loves Michel, is too cowardly to love him, or if she does not love him at all. Patricia seems content to let fate decide their future. She puts her love and fate to the test by turning Michel in to the authorities who shoot him in the final scene of the film. His dying words to her, much like their relationship, are vague, confusing, and open for interpretation.
I will analyze this final scene it plays an integral role in understanding two of the main themes in the film: fate and death. Michel’s fate shows us that we cannot control our own fates, just as we cannot control our own deaths. All throughout the film there are clear indications of these themes but their purpose is not explicitly spelled out until this final scene in which everything seems to come together whilst simultaneously falling apart. The foreshadowing of death in the film comes together clearly with their fates which, in retrospect, have been dark since the start of the film. I intend to prove this through a further analysis of the style of the scene including the dialogue, camera angles, lighting, sound, and other aspects of mise-en-scene. This style of filmmaking and the themes it portrays are wholly important because of the impact they have since had on the world of cinema.
As stated earlier, Patricia has always been quite ambivalent about how she feels about Michel. When Patricia finds out that Michel is on the run she decides to put her love to the test by turning him in to the authorities. Her reasoning is that how she will react to the idea of Michel being caught will determine whether or not she loves him. When she divulges this information to Michel he decides not to leave. He says “I’m sick of it all. I’m tired. I want to sleep.” (Godard, 1960) which is a nod to both his realization that he is done chasing after Patricia as well as his untimely death, although he does not know that yet. By a cruel twist of fate Antonio, the man that was supposed to give Michel the money to leave town, the man that he has been unable to get a hold of the entire film, finally shows up in the final scene and gives Michel the money and his automatic. This miscommunication in which Michel unwittingly ends up with a gun is what causes Detective Vital shoot him. He runs one last time in an attempt to escape with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth in true 1950’s fashion. We then see Patricia run after him as he stumbles down the street before collapsing. He makes the “sour apples” faces at her like he did in her apartment. He then utters, with his last breath, “You’re a real louse.” to Patricia before closing his eyes and meeting his untimely death. Patricia then in a manner familiar to the film asks “What’s a “louse”?” which she directs towards the audience before touching her lips as Michel often did. The viewer is left with just Patricia’s piercing gaze staring straight at them, wondering what Michel meant and Patricia is really thinking. This ending makes the viewer feel unresolved and confused.
This scene is shot with very interesting timing and rhythm that is very common among New Wave films. The timing in which the scenes are presented and the deliberate use of jump cuts draws attention to itself in a positive light (Barsam and Monahan, 347). The scene is about 3 minutes and 30 seconds long and in a classic Hollywood film that time would be pretty evenly split from shot to shot so that it is not too jarring for the audiences. Contrary to that standard the shots in this scene range from when Michel sees Patricia and continues running down the street, which takes a lengthy forty seconds or so, to when Detective Vital shoots Michel, which is a very abrupt jump cut that only takes two seconds. I believe the significance of this stylistic choice was to show just how quickly fate can take a turn. Michel finally had his money and was ready to go but in just two seconds fate catches up with him and after a fruitless last minute struggle there is nothing left for him to do but accept the fact that death is imminent.
The mise-en-scene and cinematography of this scene are executed in a manner that is vastly different from a classical film narrative. The stylistic choices made by Godard, Truffaut, and Raoul Coutard are meant to focus more on leaving the ending up for interpretation. This scene, like all of “Breathless” was filmed using a handheld camera. This, along with the very low natural lighting, adds to the viewer’s sensation of being right there in the action, of following Michel down the road as Patricia is. Because it was shot with a handheld camera the background noises came out very loud so the sound had to be dubbed in the actual film. This also deters from the normal standard of filmmaking because it creates a sense of instability. Other directors at this time would have found a way to reshoot the scenes or make the dubbed voices seem more natural. Obviously Godard did not care as much about having the dialogue sound natural, he instead opted to go the more artistic route. The quality of the sound adds to the sense of discontinuity and looseness of the dialogue. This can also be attributed to the fact that Godard would only have the cast and crew practice the script and blocking a couple of times before shooting (Coutard, 2010). It also makes the music a more prominent facet in the scene because it is not constantly competing with background noises. In “Breathless” if there is no dialogue or music the scene gets eerily quiet. The score of this film is very emotionally influential. Martial Solal, who composed the score, wrote jazzy, dramatic pieces to accompany the dramatic style of the film. Solal’s music in this scene is extremely emotionally engaging and it builds up to the moment that Michel gets shot. From that point the audience can see the strength of character Michel has at the end of his life to make one last effort to escape his fate. When he falls and realizes he is going to die the music stops momentarily for Michel to say his final words and starts again as soon as he dies, quietly at first then into a crescendo as Patricia stares into the audience.
“Breathless” diverges farther from the classic Hollywood standards in the editing techniques used in the film. Godard wanted to show discontinuity within the film to create a sense of continuity within the discontinuity. The viewer starts to get used to, understand, and appreciate the consistency of inconsistency. In this scene the jump cuts that Godard became famous for are used to show shots such as right after Michel gets shot. We do not actually see him get shot nor do we see him turn around to start running away, the screen goes from Detective Vital shooting him immediately to Michel running down the street. A jump cut is used for the same purpose in the shot where Patricia runs after Michel, we do not see where she comes from or her reaction to him getting shot, all the audience sees is her running towards Michel. I believe there are two explanations for the use of jump cuts in this scene. The first is that the original film without editing was far too long, instead of cutting out entire scenes, Godard cut up bits and pieces within shots to make the film more concise (Ebert, 2003). My second explanation is that the jump cuts help show the inconsistencies and unpredictability of Michel and Patricia’s relationship. Their paths did overlap for a brief period of time but their fates were never meant to be permanently intertwined, at least under these conditions. Maybe if they really did love each other in a different place and a different time maybe they could have lived a full and happy life together, but their fates were not destined for one another so they were constantly out of sync like the jump cuts show. The editing of this film intentionally creates a sense of chaos and confusion to help the audience better relate to the characters. It is the understanding that we are similar to and that we share characteristics with Michel and Patricia that helps the viewer appreciate the characters for their strengths and their flaws.
“Breathless” is filled with the discussion of death and how fate leads us there. The final scene is crucial when analyzing the rest of the film and the themes of fate and death. From the very beginning of the film Michel I confronted with nuances about death, when he kills the police officer and when he sees the pedestrian get hit by the car, we are presented with the knowledge that death is a major theme in this film. It is also foreshadowing his fate that death will come full circle for him. When Michel tells Antonio (but more so the audience) that he wants to sleep we are being told that he is going to die. When Patricia asks Parvulesco what is greatest ambition is in life he says “To become immortal, and then die.”
This scene embodies the style of the French New Wave movement. Every aspect of mise-en-scene is intended to create the feeling that the audience is watching the chaos of real life unfold before them. The location of the final scene of the film takes is on a city street that is virtually empty. Michel is able to run through the street with very few cars getting in his way, this is an example of neorealism. Although the street is suspiciously empty of cars for the middle of the day, the audience just accepts such facts as reality in the film. This is the same principle use when the characters talk directly to the audience. It is as if the characters are supposed to know that they are in a movie. It shows that this film is a self-aware piece of its purpose as an expressionistic piece.
The form of “Breathless” is assembled in a way that makes the film seem like a combination of an assorted group of film elements which creates a collage. The plot “Breathless” could easily have a three act structure, a boy, a girl, a gun, conflict and resolution. Instead the narrative structure focuses less on character-driven goals and actions and more on fate casting a random series of events upon Michel and Patricia. The characters do have goals: Michel wants to get his money from Antonio and to run away with Patricia and Patricia wants to become a successful journalist and find love, but neither of their goals are what the film is really about. The scene has a lot of repetition of and connections to earlier parts of the film. When Michel looks at Patricia after he collapses he does the “sour apples” face which he used to mock her when she is being dramatic earlier in the film. Although it is hard to say for certain exactly what those faces meant to him, I think that making those faces is a way for Michel to tell Patricia that he is not mad at her for betraying him by turning him in to the police. He is telling her to not be so dramatic and move on. After he makes the faces he calls her a louse (the translation is not completely clear at this point) and Patricia, as she has throughout the film, has to ask what that means because of the language barrier. Whether or not Patricia is simply acting dumb or if she really is unsure of what Michel is trying to say to her, this constant reminder of the language barrier (which is really more of a barrier between their characters) makes sure that the viewer remembers that fate will not let them be together. Finally, when Patricia looks deeply into the camera with a telling gaze and runs her thumb over her lip as Michel used to
Godard, with the help of Truffaut and Coutard, created a film that used experimental filmmaking techniques to portray two of the oldest themes in history: fate and death. The scene that I analyzed, the final scene in the film, is worth analyzing because it shows the theme of death finally coming full circle though the hands of fate. Patricia was Michel’s fate the entire time; she led him to his death. When Michel is dying on the ground Patricia stands above him in a divine fashion. Whether she is malicious, benevolent, or indecisive with Michel’s fate is never fully understood. The jump cuts, the shaky camerawork, the gritty feel to the black and white with such low contrast, the entire style of the film is screaming at the audience that this is not a love story. It will not end well. Death is the only resolute thing in this world. This scene is the culmination of their entire relationship. Jean-Luc Godard once said, “Your camera movements are ugly because your subjects are bad, your casts act badly because your dialogue is worthless; in a word, you don’t know how to create cinema because you no longer even know what it is.” (Godard). His first feature film “Breathless” was a rebellion against the confines of traditional filmmaking and everything that it stood for. Instead of a big budget and a hefty paycheck Godard chose to forgo such niceties for the opportunity to create a piece that was truly a work of self-expression. His subjects were phenomenal, his dialogue was heavily improvised and more realistic, and he knew exactly how to create cinema because his visions were pure and uncontaminated by films at the time. These reasons are why “Breathless” has transcended the language barriers and withstood the test of time.
Andrew, Dudley. “Breathless Then and Now.” The Criterion Collection. The Criterion Collection Co., 22 Oct. 2007. Web. 2 April 2012.
Barsam, Richard, and Dave Monahan. Looking at Movies: An Introduction to Film. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2009. Print.
“Biography of Jean-Luc Godard.” The New York Times. The New York Times Mag., n.d. Web. 2 April 2012.< http://movies.nytimes.com/person/91804/Jean-Luc-Godard/biography>
Coutard, Raoul. “’Jean-Luc Godard would just turn up scribble some dialogue…” The Observer. The Guardian Co. 5 June 2010. Web. April 2 2012. < http://www.guardian.co.uk /film/2010/jun/06/raoul-coutard-jean-luc-godard-breathless>
Ebert, Roger. “Breathless (1960).” The Chicago Sun-Times. The Chicago Sun-Times. 20 July 2003. Web. 2 April 2012.< http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article? AID=/20030720/REVIEWS08/307200301/1023>
“Jean-Luc Godard-Honorary Award.” Oscars. Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. 2010. Web. 12 April 2012.
“Jean-Luc Godard” The Internet Movie Database. n.d. Internet Movie Database Ltd. 2 April 2012. < http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000419/>
Mise-en-scene: Michel stands outside on the street in front of a store anxiously waiting for Antonio. He is wearing sunglasses and smoking a cigarette as he sees and runs up to Antonio’s car before he is aware that Antonio will keep driving to park.
Cinematography: It is a fairly wide shot with a slight movement to the left to catch Antonio’s car as it pulls up. There is enough to show Michel on and a couple of cars parked along the street on either side of him.
Editing: It seems to be sometime in the late movie or early afternoon. It is easy to see that Michel is in a hurry as the threat of the police grows. The shot is about 3 seconds long.
Acting and dialogue: Antonio says hello to Michel and tells him he is going to go park. Michel continues to look in a hurry as he runs into the street to catch up with the car.
Sounds, Music, and Titles: There is the sound of Antonio’s car as it passes by.
Mise-en-scene: In this shot we can see Michel running to catch up with the car. He is still smoking a cigarette. He starts out on a well-lit part of the street but runs into a part of the street that is darker and shadier.
Cinematography: It is another wide shot, the camera pans to the right so that we can see Michel chase Antonio’s car down the road.
Editing: This shot continues his running further down the road and demonstrates what a rush he is in to get away from the cops. This shot runs for about 4 seconds. It is fast-paced.
Acting and Dialogue: There is no dialogue in this shot. We only see Michel running down the street.
Sounds, Music, and Titles: Still no music playing, the only sounds that are heard are the sounds of Antonio’s car engine driving past and Michel’s shoes as he runs across the stone street.
Mise-en-scene: Michel is handed the money in a large bag, he is still smoking and wearing sunglasses. We are shown Antonio and his car. The colors of Antonio’s car, hat, and jacket contrast to the stark white of Michel’s shirt.
Cinematography: This is a medium shot that is big enough to show Antonio and Michel at a closer angle that we have seen in this scene so far. The camera moves slightly but is almost stationary.
Editing: This shot seems very faced-paced as Michel tells Antonio that the cops are after him.
Acting and Dialogue: Michel plays the role convincingly as he tells Antonio that the cops are after him because Patricia sold him out and Antonio tells him to leave with him.
Sounds, Music, Titles: No music or background noises.
Mise-en-scene: Michel blows out a puff of smoke as he tells Antonio that he cannot leave with him and that he will not run from the police. He seems very confident with his choice at this point.
Cinematography: The camera is at a close-up and it is stable. It is small enough to just focus on Michel’s face.
Editing: The pace slows down here somewhat in the exchange between Michel and Antonio. Although Antonio seems flustered and wants to get Michel out of town Michel’s demeanor seems more settled in this shot. Does not follow classic Hollywood structure.
Acting and Dialogue: Michel tells Antonio that he will not leave and that he is tired of running. Although we know that he is supposed to be speaking to Antonio, Michel looks straight into the camera as he says that.
Sounds, Music, Titles: It is virtually silent in this shot so that Michel’s statement that he is tired is taken into full effect by the audience.
Mise-en-scene: There is still the car in the street but this time we see it from a different angle and we can see more storefronts. Michel lets out a big puff of smoke and keeps the bag of money close to him.
Cinematography: This shot comes from a jump cut from the previous shot. Another medium shot with a stable camera.
Editing: This shot is also a slower paced one as Antonio gets over the initial shock of hearing that Michel will not leave town.
Acting and Dialogue: Here Antonio tells Michel that he is nuts for not leaving. Michel then says that although he knows he should not care about Patricia he still does, this has a lot to do with his blameless reaction towards being shot at the end of the film.
Sounds, Music, Titles: A church bell rings in the distance.
Mise-en-scene: Has not changed from the shot prior except Antonio hands Michel a gun.
Cinematography: The same medium shot but it is split by a pan to the right and then back to the left to face Michel.
Editing: This shot speeds up a bit at the end when Michel becomes slightly heated at Antonio for telling him to take his gun.
Acting and Dialogue: Michel gets mad at Antonio when he tries to force him to take his automatic when Michel refuses.
Sounds, Music, Titles: No music or sounds other than the dialogue.
Mise-en-scene: A black car approaches from behind Antonio’s car. The cops inside the car see Michel and skid to a halt.
Cinematography: This is a very long shot looking down on the street. Enough to show the car as it drives down the street.
Editing: The pace quickens again as the police arrive in another jump cut. But this is a very short shot (1-2 seconds).
Acting and Dialogue: There is no dialogue or acting in this shot.
Sounds, Music, Titles: The main sound in this shot is that of the car screeching very loudly to come to a complete stop.
Mise-en-scene: We see Antonio again from the car in his dark hat, tie, and jacket. He is sitting in his car turning towards Michel to throw him his gun. This shows us Antonio’s worried face as the police get out of the car to standoff with Michel.
Cinematography: This is a medium shot that is angled slightly downward to face Antonio.
Editing: Antonio reacts fast to the police and gets ready to throw his gun to Michel right as he steps into the street in front of the police.
Acting and Dialogue: There is no dialogue in this shot, just the reaction of Antonio towards the police officers.
Sounds, Music, Titles: In this shot we can only hear the quiet sound of Antonio grabbing for the gun.
Mise-en-scene: The police get out of the small black car with their guns pointed ready to shoot at Michel.
Cinematography: This is another medium shot that is looking downward at the hood of the car as the police officers get out of the car and point their guns at Michel.
Editing: This is a very short shot (about 1.5 seconds) that is just meant to keep the viewers clued in on the situation. The pressure is building as the cops all rush out of the car. It is easy to feel the tension rising.
Acting and Dialogue: There is also no dialogue in this shot but we can see the police officers ready their weapons to fire at Michel.
Sounds, Music, Titles: We can hear the car door slam and the sound of the officer’s feet on the pavement.
Mise-en-scene: We see Antonio throw the gun overhead. This shot has same setting, costumes, and props as when we saw Antonio earlier.
Cinematography: This is a medium shot that gives just enough room to see Antonio’s arm swing upward to throw the gun to Michel. Another very brief shot.
Editing: The same rushed pace is presented to the audience.
Acting and Dialogue: No dialogue but this is the point where if Antonio had not thrown the gun the fate of Michel may have been completely different.
Sounds, Music, Titles: The only sounds are that of Antonio moving around in his car before throwing the gun into the air.
Mise-en-scene: Michel, still holding the case of money, is walking in the middle of the street towards the police. He bends down to pick up the gun and quickly turns towards Antonio.
Cinematography: This shot is a medium shot that starts on the left and as Michel walks into the screen it pans right and then tilts slightly with him when he bends down.
Editing: This shot is a little slower paced in anticipation for the next shot.
Acting and Dialogue: There is no dialogue, Michel just picks up the gun and turns around. This is a nice shot though because it is kind of the calm before the storm. Jean-Paul Belmondo does a great job of acting completely unaware of what is about to happen to him.
Sounds, Music, Titles: The only sound is the sound of the gun as it lands in front of Michel.
Mise-en-scene: We then see the last shot of Antonio before he drives off in his convertible momentarily looking back at Michel.
Cinematography: This is the same medium shot shown before but this time the car exits to the left.
Editing: This is a slightly rushed scene because Antonio is in such a hurry to leave after throwing his gun to Michel.
Acting and Dialogue: No dialogue, but it is interesting to see the character Antonio drive away after throwing Michel the gun. He probably has no idea that because of his trying to help Michel was shot on the spot.
Sounds, Music, Titles: We can only really hear the sound of the car starting and driving away from the scene.
Mise-en-scene: As soon as Michel stands up we cut to the officers one of which is holding a gun. He is shot immediately by the police officers who are standing in front of their car in the middle of the road. All three police officers are dressed in suits (notably none of them are wearing uniforms) and they all look very menacing.
Cinematography: The lighting like in much of the film looks very dark when it shows the officers. This is a medium shot on a stable camera and it is very quick, only about 3 seconds.
Editing: There was a very fast-paced cut between when Michel stands up and when the police officers shoot him.
Acting and Dialogue: No dialogue but we do get to see that moment when Detective Vital finally gets Michel after all of his searching.
Sounds, Music, Titles: There is a very loud gunshot followed by the squeal of some jazzy instruments, most likely a trumpet. This is the first shot in the scene in which there is musical accompaniment.
Mise-en-scene: We then see Michel running away from where the cops were while grasping at his back teetering from side to side. The light peering through the tops of the buildings ahead make it look as it Michel is running towards somewhere brighter and better than this dark street.
Cinematography: This is a long tracking shot in which the cinematographer just followed him.
Editing: There was a jump cut between the last shot and this shot. We do not actually see Michel get hit with the bullet. We hear the gunshot and cut to him running down the street in agony. This shot is very fast-paced.
Acting and Dialogue: There is still no dialogue but Belmondo does a great job of feigning the injury.
Sounds, Music Titles: This shot is where the music really picks up. It becomes very intense, loud, and piercing the longer Michel runs for.
Mise-en-scene: In this shot we see Patricia following Michel down the street followed by the police. She is wearing her striped dress and she looks upset at the prospect of Michel being hurt.
Cinematography: This shot is taken as if looking behind Michel. It is kind of a medium close up tracking shot that follows Patricia.
Editing: There was another jump cut between this scene and the one before it. This shot is moderately fast-paced.
Acting and Dialogue: No dialogue but Jean Seberg, Patricia, has a look on her face while she chases Michel that looks like true genuine emotion .
Sound, Music, Titles: The music becomes a little quieter for a moment when the camera shows Patricia but it quickly becomes loud and energetic again.
Mise-en-scene: Here Michel becomes more and more impaired by his injuries. He briefly turns around and sees Patricia being followed by the police. Michel then begins to struggle to continue running and ultimately he collapses face-first in the middle of the street, almost in traffic.
Cinematography: This is a long shot that tracks Michel down the road until he cannot run anymore and collapses.
Editing: This is a particularly long shot, especially considering some of the other, much shorter, shots in the scene. This shot is about 40 second or so worth of film. This emphasizes the importance of this final run for Michel. It is literally his last chance to escape his fate and be free but he can’t.
Acting and Dialogue: Again, Belmondo does a great job of stretching out this injury into some great final moments for Michel.
Sound, Music, Titles: The same music as in the last shot keeps playing throughout his running but as soon as he falls it becomes much more subtle.
Mise-en-scene: We see Patricia again running towards Michel while being followed by the police.
Cinematography: This is a medium shot that is being tracked through the street towards Michel. It is very similar to the last shot we had of Patricia but this one is at a slightly different angle and a little farther away.
Editing: The editing does not follow classical Hollywood structure as it begins with a jump cut. It is slightly fast-paced but not as fast as some of the other shots.
Acting and Dialogue: No dialogue but Seberg still does a great job or showing her concern for Michel.
Sounds, Music, Titles: The music slows and becomes more delicate as Patricia gets closer to Michel.
Mise-en-scene: Michel lies face down on the ground and flips over while simultaneously taking a drag of his cigarette. Still wearing his sunglasses we can only see his upper body and the feet of Patricia and the police officers.
Cinematography: This is a medium shot.
Editing: This shot is far more slow-paced than the other shots we have seen in this scene.
Acting and Dialogue: There is no dialogue in this shot.
Sound, Music, Titles: This point in the music is a little slow then gets picked up a bit with the trumpets. The trumpets add a bit of intensity to the otherwise calming bell-like tones.
Mise-en-scene: We see Patricia holding her hand over her mouth reacting to Michel’s fatal injury and slowly lowering her hand as she comes to terms with the shock.
Cinematography: This is an extremely close-up shot of Patricia and the camera remains stationary. It remains focused on her face for about 20 seconds.
Editing: There is not much editing in this shot. It was a jump cut that was one long close-up.
Acting and Dialogue: No dialogue but Seberg’s face says it all. She is obviously emotionally distraught at the sight of Michel in such a state.
Sound, Music, Titles: There is no sound or music in this shot. The music actually stopped as soon as Patricia came on the screen.
Mise-en-scene: Michel is lying on the ground looking up at Patricia (his sunglasses are finally off). He then proceeds to make the “sour apples” faces at her.
Cinematography: It is also a close-up of Michel’s face. It remains in a stable shot for about 15 seconds.
Editing: This shot was another jump cut from the last shot we saw of Patricia’s reaction. This does not follow the classic Hollywood structure. It is slow-paced.
Acting and Dialogue: The acting here is very convincing and sincere looking (even though the action itself is somewhat joking). Belmondo pulls off the look of a man who is facing his mortality and uses humor and fond memories as a coping mechanism.
Sound, Music, Titles: There is still no music in this shot and it is eerily quiet so as to not detract from Michel’s final moments alive.
Mise-en-scene: Another reaction shot of Patricia.
Cinematography: This is a tight close-up of Patricia’s face as she reacts to Michel’s “sour apples” face. She looks like she feels very uncomfortable looking down at Michel.
Editing: This is just a very brief shot, about 5 seconds. It starts as another jump cut from when Michel was looking up at her.
Acting and Dialogue: There is no spoken dialogue in this shot.
Sound, Music, Titles: There is no sound in this shot.
Mise-en-scene: Michel is still lying on the ground in his white button-down shirt. Michel insults Patricia by calling her a louse. He then puts his hand over his eyes as if frustrated by her and his head falls to the side as he dies.
Cinematography: The camera stays stable in a close-up as Michel insults Patricia and then dies.
Editing: At this point in the scene you can feel the stillness from the lack of music, sounds, etc. despite the fact that they are in the middle of a street. The world around them has fallen silent while Michel dies.
Acting and Dialogue: Michel, who seems frustrated at Patricia, tells her something like that she is a real louse (this translation has always been a topic of debate).
Sound, Music, Titles: The music final comes back at the end of this shot as soon as Michel’s head falls (signifying his death). This music is not as intense as it was when Michel ran down the street away from the police nor is it soothing and calm by any means.
Mise-en-scene: Patricia looks away from Michel and asks one of the police officers what Michel said. He tells her that he said she is a real louse. Patricia then breaks the fourth wall by looking straight into the audience and asking “What’s a “louse?” while she grazes her thumb against her lip like Michel used to do. Patricia then turns and the screen fades to black.
Cinematography: This is still a tight close-up of Patricia’s face but this shot has more movement than the other close-ups because she turns her head toward one of the police officers.
Editing: This final shot has a really creepy feel to it. I think it is the fact that we can hear Patricia’s voice while we are still taking in the death of the protagonist. The editing techniques used just made her voice seem very inappropriate and out of place.
Acting and Dialogue: I think that this scene is one of the best that we see Jean Seberg act in. Just the way she says her final line and stares so deeply into the camera, it is as if she is looking right at me. And right at the very end, it almost looks like she might smile, but she does not.
Sound, Music, Title: There is a continuation of the jazzy, French music that keeps the viewer entranced as Patricia stares into the camera. The music in this scene really adds to the style of the film. It tells you when something interesting is happening, when to hold your gaze, and even the lack of music tells you that there is something being shown or talked about that is worth paying attention to.