A Bout de Souffle (Breathless), 1959

Director

Cast



visit the film locations

Paris flights: Paris Charles de Gaulle International Airport

Hotel: Les Rives de Notre Dame, 15 quai St Michel (tel: +331.43.54.81.16)

Visit: Cinema Mac-Mahon, 5 avenue Mac-Mahon (Métro: Étoile)


Trivia

For a somewhat cuter look at Paris, try Amelie.

Jim McBride's 1983 remake of Breathless relocates the action to Los Angeles

>A Bout de Souffle film location: La Rotonde, Boulevard Montparnasse, Paris

A Bout de Souffle film location: Left Bank chic: La Rotonde, Boulevard Montparnasse, Paris

One of the groundbreaking films to escape the confines of the studio, A Bout de Souffle was shot (apart from the opening scene of petty crook Michel Poiccard (Jean-Paul Belmondo) hotwiring a car in the Vieux Port of Marseille) on location on the streets of Paris.

Basically an American B-picture (it’s dedicated to United Artists’ bargain basement, Monogram Pictures) shot through with movie references and Gallic existentialism, the jagged jump-cutting and cool, retro-chic style save Jean-Luc Godard’s first full-length feature from mere historical worthiness as vanguard of the French New Wave.

>A Bout de Souffle film location: Les Rives de Notre Dame, quai St Michel, Paris

A Bout de Souffle film location: the hotel: Les Rives de Notre Dame, quai St Michel, Paris

Cinematographer Raoul Coutard’s restless camera, trundled about on a wheelchair or hidden in a post-office cart, forsakes the cliché of cutely angled toits looming out of the mist for a hard-edged picture of darkly glittering nights around the bars of St.-Germain and bustling days on the Champs Elysées. After all these years, the film remains the epitome of Rive Gauche cool and the director is an acknowledged influence on Quentin Tarantino.

The Left Bank hotel of Patricia Franchini (Jean Seberg), the riverfront Hotel de Suede – as it was in 1959 – lies in the shadow of Notre Dame cathedral, and was used as a make-do studio for most of the film’s interiors. One of the film’s sites that’s been given a substantial revamp and, with an eye to its location, a change of name, Les Rives de Notre Dame, 15 quai St Michel can be found at the junction of rue Xavier Privas (metro: St Michel).

A Bout de Souffle film location: Champs Elysees, Paris

A Bout de Souffle film location: Jean Seberg sells papers on the Champs Elysées, Paris

The café, where Michel orders a breakfast he can’t afford, is now a drugstore. It was Le Royale St Germain, at the intersection of the boulevard St Germain and the rue de Rennes opposite the St Germain des Pres metro station.

A Bout de Souffle film location: the old office of the International Herald Tribune, rue de Berri, Paris

A Bout de Souffle film location: the old office of the International Herald Tribune, rue de Berri, Paris

Wannabe-journalist Patricia is out selling the New York Herald Tribune on the Champs Elysées, where Michel catches up with her. The old office of the Trib, out of which Patricia works, has undergone a major facelift (it now houses a pensions company), but the brass plaque to the left of the doorway still records that from 1930 to 1978 this was the paper’s home. In front of the office, Director Godard himself puts in a cameo appearance as the weaselly snitch who tips off the law. You can see the new frontage just off the Arc de Triomphe end of the Champs, at 21 rue de Berri (metro: George V).

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