Breathless lies in the liminal area between progressive and conservative filmmaking, marking a period of transition from the old school to the French New Wave. Such hybrid position can be seen across both content and form. Content wise, Godard situates the character of Patricia right in between the conventional “good girl” and the rebellious, independent woman. Form wise, the film at once espouses discontinuity, most famously across jump shots, and retains traditional elements such as long tracking and pan shots.
The female lead Patricia brings multiple dimensions to the identity of Breathless. On one hand, the fact that she is an American student studying aboard in Paris suggests the degree to which the French New Wave has been influenced by American culture. That she, supposedly a high achieving, erudite lady could fall in love with such a “bad boy” as Michel shows that she does not intend to settle into established gender roles. On the other hand, she fails to completely break free of her stereotype and acquiesces to pleasing men—her boss, Michel, and the police—in order to get by.
Her self-inflicted dilemma is especially evident throughout her interactions with Michel. Upon finding out about Michel’s criminality, she initially decides to get rid of cops and steal a car to help him escape. She moves to watching a movie and spending the night with him as a typically loving couple. Yet just when the audience and Michel alike expects her to elope, she turns over Michel to the police, but subsequently tells him to run. Facing a confused Michel, she justifies her action by saying that she did it to clarify her feelings to him, that if she loves him she would not have done it.
Aside from the storyline, Breathless topples a certain perfection associated with conventional filmmaking by introducing the jump shot, which embraces discontinuity as an art form equally deserving as continuity. For example, the scene where Michel drives north to Paris filters out time as jump cuts prevent the soundtrack from coming to terms with the amount of distance travelled. In addition to such tactic, Godard uses hand-held camera to shoot medium close-ups, resulting in vibrating shots where discontinuity prevails.
Furthermore, the film does not seem to have any tangible openings and cuts right in the middle of an intricately planned robbery, leaving the audience deprived of an exposition. Finally, the discontinuous editing is paired with an unusual soundtrack, partly because the film is not recorded on set but later dubbed, and partly because the instrumental itself is discordant and chaotic. This along with other elements mentioned above makes Breathless the embodiment of change, a period of transition when the new has not completely taken over while the old is surely fading away.