Breathless 4K UHD Review
60 years after its original release, the epitome of cool - behind and in front of the camera - gets the 4K restoration treatment it wholly deserves. À bout de souffle, better known as Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless, is the latest of Studiocanal’s prestige 4K releases. A restoration and package like no other for a truly unique film.
In the presentation of explicit and raw imagery of Paris like no other, Breathless tells the story of Michel (Jean-Paul Belmondo) as his life plays out from danger to danger alongside Patricia, played by the equally iconic Jean Seberg. A man on the run and a man with a charm, Belmondo’s Michel has the definitive charisma and embodiment of the 'ultimate' male - a character whose qualities are desired by many men, though ironically, Michel lives his life like a movie, and lives to imitate only one man: Humphrey Bogart.
Patricia, however, is too good for Michel - she knows it, he knows it, but still, she falls for his edgy and dangerous nature, gradually landing herself in the middle of a quest to flee France, and the police pursuit of a murderer. Specifically shot and filmed like a documentary, a real and authentic feel is established all throughout Breathless, resulting in a raw ambiance around the film’s context and story events. The unconventional editing techniques in post-production would not only oppose traditional cutting between shots and scenes, but would later challenge the ways in which viewers and filmmakers alike expect a film to look.
From the innovative genius of Godard, Breathless was the ultimate focal point of the French New Wave - a predecessor and influence of the subsequent New Hollywood across the Atlantic. The innovations and techniques within the French New Wave can be seen repeated all throughout New Hollywood, but within potentially greater production techniques and values, therefore establishing the former as the perfect prototype.
Beyond the immaculate feature presentation of Breathless, the tremendous bonus content goes to great lengths - and succeeds - in accommodating the interests of both film students and admirers of French culture, plus everybody else in-between. The bonus material ranges from rare and unearthed documentary footage to two instances of brand new content. From the shortest running time to the longest, the extras entail the following:
A brand new trailer of the Breathless 4K restoration, offering a vibrant combination of bright colours and teasers of the restored footage (1 minute);
Film Presentation by Colin MacCabe - an intellectual and academic opening statement of sorts to Breathless (4 minutes);
Introduction by Jefferson Hack - a more intimate and personal interview, one which begins with relatable first-time experiences of Breathless (8 minutes);
Tempo - Godard Episode - archival biographical footage from 1965, missing the odd bit of footage lost in time. Feels terrifically relic. (16 minutes);
Still Not… Breathless - undeniably, the best component of the bonus content. Filmed within the famed room 12, interviews - in French - of Antoine Dulery, Albert Dupontel, Christophe Lambert, Cedric Klapisch, Guillaume Canet and Michel Hazanavicius, collectively establishes one of the most intriguing, intellectual and fascinating documentaries out there. A mix of practitioners and performers, the individual interviewers offer such varied riches on Breathless, Godard, the New Wave, the impact of the film on their own careers, and so on. (33 minutes);
Room 12, Hotel De Suede - unearthed from 1993, this documentarian TV movie, essentially, follows a hardcore fan - journalist Claude Ventura - on his journey in visiting the locations and magical moments from Breathless, as well as connecting all the dots from the film’s production back in 1959. (1 hour 18 minutes)
Externally, the package design of Breathless is beautiful too. A spectacle in its own right, the 4K Limited Collector's Edition - exclusive to Amazon UK - will be the jewel in the crown of every physical media collection. A truly wonderful package with even greater contents, ultimately, there is simply no restoration like this. This is the best restoration to date. Under the supervision of L’Image Retrouvee, the magic and true success of this restoration release is that, even in its new ultra high definition resolution, the original grittiness and artistic vision of Godard is still present to be loved, examined, and influential all over again.
Breathless will be released on Blu-ray, DVD, Digital, and as a 4K UHD Limited Collector's Edition (via Amazon UK) on November 9.