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The impact of Breathless on French cinema


Breathless: The premiere
Raoul Coutard Film-maker
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The first welcome there was, was something quite amusing. Because... well, in the end, I was still impressed, I mean with the discovery of the world of cinema. And when the film came out I don't remember in which cinema, I wonder if it wasn't at the Balzac or something like that we did... At the time we were still doing premieres, with... So it was released elsewhere but there was a premiere to which people were invited. So... and the film... because at the time Jean-Luc had a theory which was to say: if we are in colour we are in cinemascope, and if it's in black and white were in academic format. Meaning three quarters, 1/33. So since we were in black and white, we filmed in 1/33. So the first thing we were going to do, because it was when the 1/66 was being launched, a slightly more lengthened format.

[Q] Panoramic?

A slightly more lengthened, not really panoramic because panoramic was the 1/85.

[Q] Well, yes.

Well, let's say that it was a little more rectangular, a little less squared. So we had been to see the projectionist explaining that we were in 1/33 format, that he needed to change his thing because he showed a short film beforehand and then some commercials, because they showed the Jean Mineur advertisements. That he change it, that he didn't forget to change it. He said, 'No, no, don't worry'. And in the end he didn't change it. So the film was showed in 1/66. And when it was finished, there were people that came to see me saying, 'It's incredible, you did the framing like that, it's extraordinarily brave'. Well, it still disappointed me a little.

Le premier accueil qu'il y a eu, ça a été un truc assez drôle. Parce que bon... finalement, j'étais encore impressionné, à la découverte de ce monde du cinéma je veux dire. Et quand on a sorti le film, je ne me souviens plus dans quelle salle, je me demande si c'est pas au Balzac ou un truc comme ça, on a fait-On faisait encore à l'époque une première, avec des... Bon, ça sortait ailleurs mais il y avait la première où il y avait des gens invités. Bon et le film... Parce que Jean-Luc avait une technologie à l'époque qui était de dire: si, on est en couleur on est en cinémascope, et si on est en noir et blanc on est en format académie. C'est-à-dire trois quarts, 1/33. Alors on avait donc, comme on était en noir et blanc, on a tourné en 1/33. Alors la première chose qu'on est allés faire, parce que c'était le moment où on lançait à ce moment-là le 1/66, un format un tout petit peu plus allongé.

[Q] Panoramique?

Un petit peu plus allongé, pas vraiment panoramique parce que ça a été le 1/85 le panoramique.

[Q] Oui.

Enfin disons qu'il était un petit peu plus rectangulaire, un peu moins carré. Alors on était allés voir le projectionniste en lui expliquant qu'on était en format 1/33 qu'il fallait qu'il change son truc parce qu'il passait un court-métrage avant et puis la pub, parce qu'il y avait la publicité Jean Mineur qui passait, 'Qu'il change, qu'il n'oublie pas de changer'. Il dit, 'Non, non, ne vous inquiétez' pas et finalement il ne l'a pas changé. Alors le film et passé en 1/66. Et quand ça a été terminé, il y a des gens qui sont venus me voir en me disant, 'C'est formidable, vous avez fait des cadrages comme ça, il faut avoir un courage extraordinaire'. Alors ça m'a un petit peu déçu quand même.

French cinematographer, Raoul Coutard (1924-2016) was twice nominated for the César Award for best cinematography which he won in 1978 for 'Le Crabe-tambour'. He made over 75 films and documentaries, including 'À Bout de Souffle', Le Mépris' and 'Band à Part'. He was the most acclaimed French cinematographer of his generation and one of the key figures of the New Wave.

Listeners: Bernard Cohn

Benard Cohn is a French filmmaker and writer, who has directed five films as well as numerous documentaries and television series. As an assistant director, he worked with many important filmmakers, including Luis Buñuel, François Jacob, Otto Preminger and Woody Allen. He was a founding member of the Ciné-Qua-Non cinema club and has acted as editor and translator for various publications on the world of cinema.

Bernard Cohn est un réalisateur et écrivain français, ayant réalisé cinq film ainsi que de nombreux reportages et séries télévisées. En tant qu'assistant réalisateur, il a travaillé avec plusieurs grands cinéastes, notamment Luis Buñuel, François Truffaut, Otto Preminger et Woody Allen. Il fut membre fondateur du ciné-club Ciné-Qua-Non et a participé à la rédaction et traduction en anglais, de plusieurs ouvrages sur le cinéma.

Tags: Breathless, Jean Mineur

Duration: 1 minute, 46 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008