Every ten years since 1952, the world-renowned film magazine Sight & Sound has polled a wide international selection of film critics and directors on what they consider to be the ten greatest works of cinema ever made, and then compiled the results. The top fifty movies in the 2012 critics’ list, unveiled August 1, include twenty-five Criterion titles. In this series, we highlight those classic films.
Breathless is such a monument of a movie, such a turning point in film history, that it’s easy to forget just how much fun it is. Jean-Luc Godard’s work later became denser, angrier, and more political, but his jazzy debut is as fleet as movies get. Casting rakish rising star Jean-Paul Belmondo as a hoodlum on the run from the law and American ingenue Jean Seberg as the sly, pixieish girlfriend who ultimately betrays him, Godard was riffing on the American gangster picture, but with its revelatory handheld camerawork and frenetic jump cuts, Breathless is clearly more than homage: it launched a New Wave, rewrote the rules of cinema, and along the way became the definition of cool. Watch an extended sequence of its two wildly charismatic stars engaged in an epic game of teasing flirtation.