1001 Movies – A bout de souffle (1960)

A bout de souffleA small-time thief steals a car and impulsively murders a motorcycle policeman. Wanted by the authorities, he reunites with a hip American journalism student and attempts to persuade her to run away with him to Italy.

Brief Thoughts

Before: I know absolutely nothing about this film and hadn’t heard of it before looking at the list. I’m not worried about watching a subtitled film as I’ve watched plenty of anime in sub.

After: What did I just watch? I just… the hell… this is one of the 1001 films you need to watch? Why?


This is the first time I’ve felt like this list was put together by old white men who think you have to watch something because ‘it’s a classic’. I don’t understand what I was supposed to take away from this film or why other people think it deserves a place on this list. I know that that I’m not going to like all the films I watch over the next decade but I would have thought I’d at least understand why it’s on the list.
I did research while writing this review to try and find some explanations but it just didn’t do it for me. So I’m going to use my review to try and explain why and put together what I thought was happening


I… I don’t know what the idea was behind this film. I read in my research that the idea came from a story of a man stealing a car to go see his sick mother, and that the frantic editing is about leaving it up to the viewer to decide with Michel was doing between scenes. Or that it’s about the moments of indecision between moral decisions.

What this film does do is used a handheld camera and uses plenty of jump cuts (jumping between camera shots multiple times) and this was the first film to do that. So I can see why from a historic cinematography POV it might have a place on the 1001 list.


A guy steals a car, kills a cop, goes to Paris to see an American journalist student to try and persuade her to run to Italy with him. She agrees to go and then turns him into the police, while he’s busy trying to get someone to give him the money that he’s owed so he can go on the run.

Honestly I had no clue what was going on for most of this film and didn’t care, he’s supposed to be a small time thief and yet he kills someone and doesn’t seem to care or being effected at all.


There are really only two characters in this film and the rest are just background supporting cast – Michel (the ‘small time’ thief) and Patricia (American journalist student).

Apparently Michael is obsessed with American cinema but I only know that because of the research, I didn’t see much evidence of it. What I did see was a man who was going through the world not caring about the impact he made or the impact the world was having on him. So many things were just passing him by and he didn’t seem to care at all. He just came across as a douche who didn’t know the meaning of the word no.

Patricia I think is a more interesting character, she had the feel of a hispter student who’s trying a bit too hard but has read a lot of philosophy. I think she really does care for Michael but did the right thing in turning him in. Not only did he kill a man but he’s clearly going to get bored of her at some point. I think the more interesting story is in the fact she’s pregnant with his child because he does not give a shit about it.

‘I don’t know if I’m unhappy because I’m not free, or if I’m not free because I’m unhappy.’ Like I said she gives off French philosophical/hipster vibes, which is pretty much how to sum up this film. Trying to hard to be cool.


At random moments as much as ‘tense’ moments there was suspenseful jazzy music to really increase the atmosphere. I appreciated that it wasn’t a full score and I’m sure the random moments weren’t random at all, but it felt it. I only realised it was important and I should care because of the jazzy music. So I suppose it did it’s job…


In a very French and hispter way for at least a third of the film we don’t actually see people’s face when they are talking. They have their back to the camera, the camera jumps to the other person in the scene, or they are talking with a cigarette in their mouth but there is no sign of the slurring that would occur. It’s clearly been dubbed in at times and I had a quick look back, I think about the 25 min mark is when we properly see people talk… I get it’s supposed to be ‘art’ but it just felt weird.


BAFTA: NOMINEE – Best foreign actress

Did I enjoy it? Nope
Am I glad I watched it? For the sake of completion and this project yes, but otherwise no
Would I watch again? No
Would I have watched it if not for this challenge? Nope and my life would have been perfectly fine without it.

My next film is another French subtitled one, and I hope I like it. (‘A nous la libertes’) maybe I just need to get used to the French hispter way of storytelling.


One thought on “1001 Movies – A bout de souffle (1960)

  1. I’ve always found French films to be incredibly odd, ~artsy~, and hipster (even before hipsters were even a thing), so I totally understand where you’re coming from with this. What’s interesting is how it seems like they really push the idea of the main guy being a small town thief, but then does something super out of character and then there’s no change in the guy’s personality or anything…

    This is an awesome review! Hopefully you like your next French film. If not, I would recommend Les Choristes or La Vie en Rose. Those are my faves!


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