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About three minutes into Breathless, Michel, the brigand at the heart of story, turns to the camera and tells the audience, “If you don’t like the sea, or the mountains, or the big city, then get stuffed!” In that early line, Jean-Luc Godard’s 1960 masterpiece became as much a love letter to France as a blueprint for a generation of artists to tell the conventionality to fuck off. In time for its 50th anniversary, Breathless has been remastered into what A.O. Scott called an “immaculate and glowing” new print. The original print with those awkward subtitles is readily available streaming on Netflix or on a Criterion Collection DVD, but forego the home-viewing option and instead see the version now screening at AFI. Although Godard’s innovations have been mimicked for half a century, Breathless and its jump cuts, tracking shots, and guerilla production feel as new as ever. The conversation between Michel (Jean-Paul Belmondo) and Patricia (Jean Seberg) dissecting love, death, and art in a postcoital haze that takes up nearly one-third of the film would never be seen in today’s cinema. If you don’t like it, reread the end of my first sentence.
THE FILM SHOWS DAILY TO JULY 15 AT THE AFI SILVER THEATRE IN SILVER SPRING. $6-$10. (301) 495-6720.