Screen Style: Breathless (À Bout de Souffle)



A couple that wears stripes together stays together?


The invention of the modern hipster can most likely be traced to this film. It was released in 1960 under the direction of legendary Jean-Luc Godard, who was making his feature film debut. Breathless follows a young on-the-run criminal Michel, played by the very ugly-sexy Jean-Paul Belmondo, as he embarks on a romance with an American journalism student, Patricia, played by the lovely Jean Seberg, on an exchange in Paris.



I could go on and on about the film's cinematography and direction but this is a fashion blog so let's get on with the fashion. It's not an understatement to say that this film marked an end of one era in fashion and the beginning of another. The new wave abandons the prim and proper ladylike garb of the 1950s and takes on a tomboy-ish look representing free-spiritedness. 




Patricia sports a short pixie cut, a style that Jean Seberg made popular long before Mia Farrow. She loves her cat-eye liner and, perhaps because she is France, Breton stripes. In fact, she wears an alarming number of stripey ensembles in this film, although some of them are Michel's dress shirts. 




Since most of their time together is spent in the bedroom, Patricia plays with clothes, his fedora, unknowingly sparking a trend that Urban Outfitters will base an entire business plan on. 




While Patricia may be a trendsetter, Michel's style is based on the likeness of Humphrey Bogart, whom he worships. But his youth and French ruggedness create a combination of boyish naivety (as though he is wearing his dad's suit) and arrogant masculinity.




When outside of the bedroom, Patricia prefers boatneck and oversized collars, cinched waists and full skirts. It feels vulnerable, almost little girl-like. Without spoiling the plot, one thing's for sure: nothing in this film is unintentional, so in each scene, character development is advanced by every single detail.




Have you counted all the stripes? 

PS. There was a crappy remake in 1983 staring young Richard Gere, but the roles were reversed: French girl, American boy. Nothing great style-wise, but young Richard Gere is sure nice to look at. 

6 comments:

  1. Stripes forever!=) Love her dress on the last photo, oversized collar is what I want from now on)

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  2. My husband and I have been wanting to watch this movie for a while, and now I want to see it even more!

    http://nomadic-d.blogspot.com/

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  3. i just recently bought a blue and off white a.p.c. striped shirt. it's thick and reminds me of my elementary school rugby shirt (which also happened to be blue and white striped). i would wear it everyday if i could.

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  4. Such a good film! Godard has a thing for females in stripes, he's all over them again in Contempt.

    You should do a piece on House (Hausu) - a Japanese movie from the 70's. It's an interesting film and it's not for everyone, but the stars have some pretty fantastic clothes on.

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  5. Sarah T,

    Thanks! I will check it out.

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  6. Amazing. Breathless has always been one of my most favourite films, and Godard's always had such amazing actresses as his leading ladies - I have a serious girl crush on Anna Karina!

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