In this amazing film that defines the 60s French New Wave movement in cinema, Breathless tells the story of Patricia Franchini (Jean Seberg), a beautiful, naive American girl sent to Paris to study journalism who falls for the thuggish, cynical Michel Poiccard (Jean-Paul Belmondo). This film, directed by the great Jean-Luc Goddard, is about style, about irony, about cynicism and about cinema itself.
The film opens with Michel casually stealing a car and driving through the countryside, even as he narrates the drive to himself. Finding a gun in the glove compartment he shoots a policeman then bolts back to Paris, where he finds Patricia walking down the Champs-Élysées, hawking English-language newspapers.
But Michel and Patricia aren't just characters in a story, they're symbols of the tension between cultured and rogue, law-abiding and lawbreaker, journalist and story, and most importantly, between the naive optimism of America versus the post-war cynicism of France.
Breathless revels in contrasts too, with Patricia carelessly dancing from reflector to reflector as she crosses a busy street while Michel casually clobbers a middle-aged businessman in a public restroom and steals his money. It's shocking, but there's a sort of depressing logic to their mutual attraction. Later Michel asks Patricia "Do you ever think about death", as he sits in bed playing with her teddy bear.