Godard’s ‘Breathless’ & Alternatives to Continuity Editing



Spatial and Temporal Discontinuity

Key terms:

Rhythmic cutting

360 degree space

Jump cut

Manipulations of order and frequency

Story duration


Inconsistent match on action

Temporal dislocations


  1. How are the shots graphically continuous or discontinuous?
  2. What rhythmic relations are created?
  3. Are the shots spatially and temporally continuous? If not, what creates the discontinuity? (crosscutting, jump cuts, ambiguous cues, graphic mismatch?)
  4. How do the editing techniques function and what do they emphasize?
  5. How does the editing technique contribute to the viewer’s experience of the film?

General Notes:

– Ignoring the 180degree rule – 360 degree space. Eg. Ozu, Tati, Godard –
o    “Instead of an axis of action that dictates that the camera be placed within an imaginary semicircle, these filmmakers work as if the action were not a line but a point at the center of a circle and as if the camera could be placed at any point on the circumference” (BT: 253)

Jacques Tati – Playtime

–    filming from every side, “multiple spatial perspectives on a single event” (BT: 253)
–    yet Tati’s editing style doesn’t confuse the spectator despite the fact that he violates the rules of continuity editing
–    Jump cut: “violates conventions of spatial, temporal, and graphic continuity by his systematic use of the jump cut” (BT: 254)
–    Shot-reverse-shot without the reverse aspect of the editing process. Creates disorientation for the viewer
–    Non-diegetic insert: “here the filmmaker cuts from the scene to a metaphorical or symbolic shot that is not part of the space and time of the narrative” (BT: 254)
–    Suspends story action
–    Example: Eisenstein’s intercut of the slaughter of a bull in Strike and Godard’s La Chinoise intercut to superheroes

–    Bertolucci’s The Dreamers

(just watch the right side of the screen)

–    Playing with frequency – repeating the same gesture – different with each repetition: Godard’s Pierrot le fou

600full-pierrot-le-fou-screenshotMade in U.S.A (Godard)


–    based on Hollywood film noir of the 1940s
–    Michel kills the motorcycle cop – the gun shot starts the story
–    Many references to Hollywood films – thumb across lips like Humphrey Bogart, numerous Hollywood movie posters in the background, Michel’s character is based on the Hollywood gangster or rebel

–    taxi scene –

–    appears amateurish in style
–    “It makes character motivations ambiguous and lingers over incidental dialogue. Its editing jumps about frenetically. And, whereas films noirs were made largely in the studio, where selective lighting could swathe the characters in a brooding atmosphere, Breathless utilizes location shooting with available lighting” (BT: 397)
–    includes elements of neo-realism – deglamorized reworking of Hollywood films noirs
–    goals to not drive the narrative – the 43second scene where Michel pauses in front of a movie theater looking at a poster of Bogart

–    Godard does use continuity editing but only to then subvert it – such as the scene in the bedroom with Patricia and the final scene of the film
–    Sound contributes to the discontinuity of a scene – sound plays consistently over the jump cuts, or ambient noise takes over a scene as a result of on location shooting

– Breaks the 180 degree rule

French New Wave
–    1950s -1960s
–    young cinema groups – “some trained in film schools, many allied with specialized film magazines, most in revolt against their elders in the industry” (461)
–    France – Cahiers du cinema – Andre Bazin (co-founder), Francois Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Claude Chabrol, Eric Rohmer, Jacques Rivette
–    Proliferation of auteur theory – film ‘authors’
–    “An auteur usually did not literally write scripts but managed nonetheless to stamp his or her personality on studio products, transcending the constraints of Hollywood’s standardized system” (BT: 461)
–    Howard Hawks, Otto Preminger, Samuel Fuller, Vincente Minelli, Nicholas Ray, Alfred Hitchcock
–    Paris May 1968 uprising –

Article on Jean-Luc Godard – Godard’s Comic Strip Mise-en-Scene (Senses of Cinema, 2009)

La Chinoise (Godard)

La Chinoise (Godard)


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