Breathless (A Bout de Souffle) 162 MC Research

a-bout-de-souffle‘Breathless’ is a 1960 French new wave film directed by Jean-Luc Godard. A young car thief kills a policeman and tries to persuade a girl to hide in Italy with him.

I watched ‘Breathless’ for the editing, as research for the 162MC editing task. I’ve researched french new wave and some of the editing techniques but thought I should watch a whole french new wave film to see how those editing techniques are put into practice.

The main editing techniques I noticed were;

  • Jump cuts
  • Fade transitions (dip to black)
  • Iris wipe

Jump Cuts

Jump cuts are used regularly in the film, for different effect. The main use is to cut from scene to scene, a technique used in most abreathless godard DVDVolume-0films. The other is to interrupt long takes, mainly of dialogue. Initially this was because Godard was told the film was too long, and he had to cut it down to just 90 minutes. He used the jump cut to cut out parts of long takes and decrease the run time. During long takes, such as the close up of Patricia’s head while she’s sitting in the car listening to Michel talk, Godard uses visible jump cuts to speed up the take, but still include all the dialogue. We see a visible ‘jerk’ from one shot to another, and occasionally it jumps to a different location (or in terms of the car scene a different part of the road). One of the main things I noticed during the scene where Michel and Patricia are talking in her apartment as she gets dressed for work, was that the jump cuts were used in such a way that the characters had changed position without it being shown. In a lot of films the filmmakers appear to show the audience everything and are very cautious about continuity, however in Breathless there are jump cuts that one minute have the character stood up, and the next sat down.

Fade (Dip to Black)

Fades that dip to black were used quite regularly in the film, they usually marked a passing of time. When Godard wanted to represent that time had passed, without showing the audience every movement of the characters, he would use a fade that dipped to black. This occurred maybe five or six times throughout the film. Each time it was used the characters had moved to a different location, and were doing different things, so the fade was used to emphasise the passing of time in the narrative. This is something I will be able to use quite a lot in my edit of the film for 162, because quite a lot of time passes while they’re waiting in the lift.

tumblr_m3rgwzOCoS1rrd8bxo1_1280Iris Wipe

An iris wipe transition was used twice in Breathless, it showed the passing of time like the fade transition but was used almost to show a new ‘chapter’ in the narrative. It is something I could perhaps use once, probably in place of titles stating how much time has passed. The iris wipe was used at regular intervals almost as if marking ‘part one’ ‘part two’ and ‘part three’ of the narrative.

Sound and Titles

The sound and titles are quite important, I’ve already had a play around with music and fonts for the titles. The only non-diegetic sound used in Breathless is music, there’s not really any sound effects. The music is obviously relevant to the era and also to the location (France) so to make my edit feel like French new wave I’ve decided to incorporate similar music. I’ve also thought quite carefully about the font for the titles and have downloaded a font that connotes 60’s France from a font download site called Dafont.

Here’s a screen capture I took of one of the iris wipes…

breathless editing2 from Natasha Harmer on Vimeo.


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