Compass > Cities > BREATHLESS



Posted on April 30, 2012, by Gary Kingsnorth

There are few things more stylish than a French film. And Breathless, or ‘A bout de souffle’ in native tongue, is no exception. Signaling the beginning of a new wave of French film making, Breathless defined European cinema of the 1960s. Shot in signature black and white, this new wave of cinema depicted the bleak reality of French life, rejecting the escapism offered by classical cinema. This was honest film-making, and despite their flaws the protagonists of these films were undeniably cool.Helping define what we now see as French style – round sunglasses, loose striped t-shirts, slim jeans, all accessorised with the standard cigarette – new wave remains a mood board of inspiration for the modern fashion conscious gentleman.

Like many of the nouvelle vague era films, the plot of Breathless, directed by Jean Luc Godard, is fairly simple. Centering around the character of Michel Poiccard, a petty thief who murders a policeman. Attempting to coerce a hip young American girl to escape to Italy with him, he hides out in her apartment, as the police search closes in around him. Eventually she betrays him and tells the police. Rather than accepting his fate he runs away and is eventually shot. He dies, at the end – breathless.Like all nouvelle vague protagonists, Michel Poiccard is highly flawed. A clear sociopath, Poiccard is not your classic style icon. Regardless, his relaxed, Gallic dress sense should still┬ábe held in high regard. Channeling Humphrey Bogart, Jean-Paul Belmondo, who plays Poiccard, perfects the French uniform – slouchy suits, sunglasses and a fedora. It is effortless – and that’s why it is so iconic.So how can you channel the nouvelle vague look? Try a wool camel blazer with a black shirt and slim trousers, or go for a vintage cut tee and some Levi’s 501s. Look for 1960s shapes and finish it off with a great pair of sunglasses – Ray Ban clubmasters were a perennial favourite of the new wave directors.

Watch Breathless for yourself – or any other Godard or Truffaut film – and you will find a wealth of great menswear to inspire. This is style that is timeless.Jack Moss.