Breathless is from 1960, stars Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg and was written by Francois Truffaut.
The film is loosely based on true story that Truffaut read about in a newspaper article.
It was Godard’s first feature-length film and one of the earliest, most influential films of the French New Wave.
At the time of its release, the movie attracted a lot of attention for its bold visual style and the innovative use of jump cuts.
The production was filmed on location in Paris and, like most of our French classics, almost the entire film had to be dubbed in post-production because of the noisy cameras and noise of the Paris streets.
Jean-Paul Belmondo had already appeared in a few feature films prior to Breathless, but he had no name recognition outside of France when Godard was planning the film.
So, in order to broaden the movie’s commercial appeal, Godard looked for a prominent leading lady who would be willing to work in his low-budget film.
He picked Jean Seberg and she agreed to appear for $15,000, which was one-sixth of the film's $90,000 budget. Godard also ended up giving Seberg's husband a small part as a journalist in the film.
The movie was virtually improvised on the spot, with Godard writing dialogue as they went. Godard would then give the lines to Belmondo and Seberg, have a few brief rehearsals, and then film the scene right then.
He couldn’t afford it so he didn’t bother to get any permits or permission to shoot the film on the streets and boulevards of Paris. So for some street scenes, to avoid detection, the cinematographer would hide in a mail cart, with packages piled on top of him, filming through a hole cut in the side of the cart.
The budget was so tight that, instead of renting a dolly that required the time-consuming and expensive effort of laying down tracks, Godard rented a wheelchair for the cinematographer to sit in and film the moving shots. And Godard often pushed the wheelchair himself.
Jean-Paul Belmondo has appeared on over 85 films and had made 10 films before this film. And although this turned out to be his break-through film, when shooting was finished he thought it was so bad that he was convinced it would never even be released. So he was very surprised by the warm reception the movie received.
The son of a renowned French sculptor, Belmondo didn’t do well in school but liked boxing and made his amateur boxing debut in 1949, when he knocked out his opponent in the 1st round.
His boxing career was short but noteworthy - he won his first three matches with 3 straight 1st-round knockouts before switching to the less violent job of acting. Belmondo always performed all the stunts himself but had to stop after an accident during the filming of Hold-Up in 1985.
Belmondo's typical characters were either dashing adventurers or more cynical heroes. As he grew older, Belmondo preferred to concentrate on stage work, where he was very successful.
In 2001, he suffered a stroke that paralyzed the right half of his face and didn’t appear on stage or in film again until 2009. He does still act today.
One month before her 18th birthday, Jean Dorothy Seberg landed the title role in Otto Preminger's 1957 Saint Joan, after a heavily publicized contest that had 18,000 applicants.
The movie bombed and her fledgling movie career stalled until her role in tonight's landmark feature brought her renewed international attention.
Four years after Breathless, she gave a memorable performance as a schizophrenic in the title role in 1964’s Lilith, which co-starred Warren Beatty. Her most famous film was the 1969 musical-western Paint Your Wagon, with Lee Marvin and Clint Eastwood.
In her career, Seberg appeared in 35 films in Hollywood and in France. She is also one of the best-known targets of an FBI counter intelligence project of the 50s & 60s called COINTELPRO, which targeted groups and individuals that J. Edgar Hoover deemed "subversive".
That included communist and socialist organizations; groups and individuals associated with the civil rights movement like Martin Luther King Jr. and Stokely Carmichael, and creative people like actors, writers and painters.
FBI tactics allegedly included discrediting people through psychological warfare; smearing individuals and groups using forged documents and by planting false reports in the media and constant harassment.
While in Hollywood, Seberg was involved in anti-war politics and became the target of an undercover campaign by the FBI to discredit her. In 1970, the FBI created the false story that the child then-pregnant Seberg was carrying was not fathered by her husband, author Romain Gary, but by a member of the Black Panther Party.
The story was reported by a gossip columnist in The Los Angeles Times and was also printed by Newsweek magazine. Possibly because of the stress and pressure of the FBI campaign against her, Seberg went into premature labor and gave birth to Nina, a 4-pound baby girl. Unfortunately, the child died two days later.
To disprove the rumors that the child's father was black, Seberg held an open-casket funeral to prove to reporters that the baby's skin was white.
On nearly every subsequent anniversary of her daughter Nina's death, Seberg attempted suicide. The investigation & harassment of Seberg went far beyond the publishing of defamatory articles.
According to Freedom of Information documents released after her death, Seberg experienced years of aggressive in-person surveillance, constant stalking, as well as break-ins and other intimidation activity.
FBI files show that not only was she wiretapped, but aggressive surveillance was also used while she was travelling in Switzerland and Italy and while she lived in France.
Her victimization was one of the best-documented stories of retaliation by the FBI against civil rights and activist groups in the 1960s.
She tried to commit suicide several times, once by jumping in front of a Metro train in Paris in 1978. Then, in August 1979, Seberg disappeared.
Ten days later, her decomposing body was found wrapped in a blanket in the back seat of her car. It was ruled a suicide - she was 40 years old. Rumors were that her suicide was masterminded by the FBI but that was never proven.
Six days after the discovery of Seberg's body, the FBI released documents under FOIA admitting the defamation of Seberg, while trying to distance themselves from practices of the Hoover era.
The FBI's campaign against Seberg was further explored by Time magazine in a front page article, "The FBI vs. Jean Seberg". The Seberg case is still examined today as a hallmark case of U.S. intelligence abuses directed towards U.S. citizens.
A year after her death, Seberg's former husband, Romain Gary, also committed suicide. His suicide note said that he had not killed himself over the loss of Seberg, but because he felt he could no longer produce literary works.