The "A Bout de Souffle" ("Breathless") -- treatment by Francois Truffaut
This is François Truffaut's treatment which became Jean-Luc Godard's film A Bout de Souffle (Breathless). It is available in French at this site:
We will speak here of greatly unattractive things
MARSEILLES, Tuesday afternoon
A quiet Lucien appears to be reading the Paris-Flirt on the terrace of a cafe at the lower end of La Cannebière. In reality, he is watching the coming and going of cars outside the Vieux-port.
Near the boats which take tourists to visit the Château d'lf, a young woman give Lucien a signal. She points out an automobile with US Army license plates about to be parked. Its occupants, an American officer, his wife and their children, go to buy get tickets for the Chateau D’If. They are under the surveillance of Lucien and the young woman who act like the others and seem to not know each other.
When the boat has gone some distance away, Lucien goes up to the auto- a DeSoto convertible- and appears to be examining it as if it belonged to him, checking the tires and the oil.
The young girl asks Lucien to take her with him, but he refuses and gets behind the steering wheel and starts the car by bringing into contact the wires under the dashboard.
Several hours later
We find Lucien on the Route Nationale. He must be accustomed to driving stolen cars for his is in excellent form and all by himself behind the wheel he is singing at the top of his voice.
He drives along side an Alfa-Romeo driven by a pretty woman and asks her, if by any chance her name is Mrs Lucien Poicard. She shakes her head “No” and he tells her that this is too bad because he is Lucien Poicard.
A little further on, we see him slow down to pick up two woman who are hitchhiking. But passing by them he decides that they are too ugly and speeds up even faster.
From time to time, Lucien carries on a monologue out loud for himself. And so we learn, by hints, what Lucien’s present projects are.
1) To procure money in by committing a more or less shady act.
2) Lucien wants to see a certain Patricia whom he hopes to convince to go abroad with him.
But a third problem will complicate Lucien’s affairs. Day is ending while he drives in the direction of Paris near Sens. Aggravated by a Renault 2 CV which does not dare to pass a truck, Lucien overtakes both vehicles smack in the middle of a turn before a slope in second place. His tires go well over the yellow line and the sound of a whistle rings out. An motorcycle cop keeping watching from the top of the slope signals him to pull over to the side of the highway. Lucien, who is in a stolen car, rushes ahead on the contrary as if he were staring death in the face.
The pursuit of Lucien ends in a small village. Lucien takes a side street. It’s a dead-end. His motor stalls. Lucien takes from a map case a revolver that he had just now found under a box of candles. The motorcycle cop removes his gun. everything happens quickly. Lucien shoots the motorcycle cop without realizing what he was doing. He is furious with himself. He has a great need to get himself a likely story.
We discover Lucien again, in Paris
The early morning. He must have hitchhiked because a small Danish car lets him off at St. Michel. Lucien goes into a telephone booth, but has a change of mind and hangs up without making a phone call. He goes out and starts to walk toward the docks. He is in shirt-sleeves, having forgotten his jacket in the automobile after he shot the motorcycle cop.
He buys a morning newspaper. It does not yet report the murder. Lucien goes into a little hotel which looks out on the Seine. He asks if miss Patricia Franchini is there. The caretaker who is in the middle of washing the steps tells him no. Lucien insists. But Patricia isn’t there, proof of it is that her key is on the rack. Lucien says that he is going to leave a note. He takes advantage of the caretaker washing the steps to take the key. He goes into Patricia’s room and the bed is made. He rummages around left and right. He tries a jacket on. Too small. He finds change in a drawer, but they’re American coins. He leaves the room after washing his face.
We see him enter the Royal Saint-Germain and ask the price of a plate of ham and eggs. He counts his money and he does not have enough. Heorders two ham and egg plates and says that he will be back.
Lucien crosses Boulevard Saint--Germain, passes in front of La Hune, and goes into the courtyard of a building aside the Cafe de Flore. We discover him in the alley which runs along the maids rooms.
Behind a door, Lucien hears a female voice singing one of the songs from “La Belle Hélène”. Lucien enters quietly without knocking. A girl, wearing pajama bottoms, is drying her hair. She turns around and does not seem surprised. We learn that she and Lucien had lived together on Saint-Germain seven or eight months ago. She makes commercials and does TV now and has abandoned the “neighborhood”. Lucien is less forthcoming about himself. He is not managing badly. He should be receiving two and a half million francs this afternoon. While he is waiting, would she be able to lend him two or three thousand francs? She say that she does not have it. Lucien invites her to breakfast, hoping that she will pay. But she is in a rush. Lucien takes advantage of putting on a shirt and when her head is covered, he extracts a few thousand franc bills from he pocketbook. Then, he says that he will see her soon and leaves. It is eight o’clock on Wednesday morning.
Towards ten o’clock, Lucien enters a travel agency on the Champs-Élysées. He has bought a second-hand jacket and dark glasses. Lucien asks one of the employees if Michel is there. he is told that Michel is there only from eleven o’clock. Lucien says that he will return and asks for the address of the American newspaper the “New York Herald-Tribune”.
A string of linking shots of Lucien going to the “New York Herald”. He enters the hall, addresses a young girl in a yellow jersey who is behind the information window and asks if a Miss Patricia Franchini does work here. He is told that she should be out on the Champs-Élysées selling the paper. Lucien goes back out and walks down the Champs-Élysées.
He sees a girl in a yellow jersey. She tells him that Patricia is on the sidewalk on the other side of the street beyond the Pam-Pam cafe. Lucien crosses the Champs-Élysées. He pushes away a student who was selling pamphlets while asking “You haven’t anything against youth?” Lucien snarls at him saying, exactly, he hates the young and likes the old a lot.
Lucien see Patricia who is walking 10 yards in front of him. He follows her for a little while. Feeling herself followed, she turns around. She wears a yellow jersey with the initials of the New York Herald-Tribune on the chest. She has an American sailor’s beret slanted over her forehead. She is also wearing blue-jeans. Lucien buys a copy of the newspaper from her. She open her eyes wide.: what was Lucien doing in Paris? She thought he was in Nice.
Lucien says that he is in Paris on business. He proposes to Patricia to take off for Italy with him. We learn that that had lived together, several weeks ago on the Coast where Patricia was on vacation. She says neither yes or no to Lucien. He needs to see. She had to enrol at the Sorbonne maybe write articles for the New York Herald-Tribune.
They made a date for the night in a cafe on the Boulevard where she was going to be.
We stay with Lucien who goes back to the travel agency. On the small street in front of the Biarritz, he witness a deadly accident, a scooter driver was knocked over by an auto. The scooter driver’s bloody face makes Lucien remember the motorcycle cop. He buys a copy of “France-Soir” where, on the second page, he finds an account of the crime. the motorcycle cop was in the hospital between life and death. The police have a number of clues, the article said; fingerprints, the jacket which that they had found only several ten-thousand franc bills.
Lucien enters, with a newspaper under his arms, the travel agency from just before. Michel, the man that he knows, has come in. He hands an envelop over to Lucien. Everything seems routine. But Lucien grumbles. He was expecting cash and he has been given a check and what is more an accounts only check. Michel says that he does not know anything about this and that he only was deliver it. He tells Lucien to talk to their friend Berruti who should be in Paris right now since he had seen him the day before yesterday. Berruti will certainly cash the check and, maybe, even without taking a commission for Lucien had saved his life a few years ago. Lucien is annoyed but he will have to do it that way. He, certainly, is not going to dare to present the check at the bank after the accident with the motorcycle cop. He uses Michel’s telephone to call Berruti who is not there. He is in paris, but his maid does not know where.
Lucien leaves the agency. As he leaves, he passes two men. We remain with them. They are going to ask at the counter if anyone has see a man named Lucien Poicard who has his mail sent there having previously worked for that agency. Michel is constrained to tell them that Lucien had been by five minutes ago. The police go outside and look around. No Lucien.
“No problem,” one says, “we’ll have his mugshot and prints this afternoon from Interpol.” The other says that Lucien, probably, had to go into the Metro to have disappeared so abruptly.
They plunge into the George V metro. We follow them. On goes over to the “Vincennes” platform, the other the “Neuilly” platform. We leave them to focus on Lucien who comes out on the Champs-Elysées by the Metro exit in front of the “Normandy”. He enters the cinema next door which advertises a Humphrey Bogart film. Lucien lingers in front of a photo of Bogart.
WEDNESDAY NIGHT. The light slants down onto the Boulevards. Lucien joins Patricia in a milk-bar. they are going to eat a snack. As they are late serving them, they go elsewhere. Lucien wants to stay the night with Patricia. She agrees. Suddenly, she recalls that she has to make a phone call.
She comes back. She hugs Lucien for a long time, very gently. “Then, we’ll sleep together”, Lucien says. But Patricia answers that that will not be possible. she can not stay with him tonight. She absolutely has to see an editor for the N.Y Herald-Tribune who has promised to let her write articles. Tomorrow, there was a famous novelist to interview and the woman who usually does these interviews was not around. Patricia might replace her. For Patricia, it is very important and that she must absolutely see this editor. Lucien asks if she will sleep with him, she tells him that that does not concern him. She asks Lucien to drive her to the rendezvous that she has just made on the phone. If Lucien does not want to. she would go by taxi. But Lucien says that he will accompany her.
They get into a 403. Patricia asks Lucien if he had sold his bulky Ford. Lucien tells him it is at the garage. The garage lent him the 403 while waiting for his to be ready.
Lucien drops off Patricia in front of the Pergola, high up on the Champs-Élysées. We stay with Patricia who meets the journalist on the first floor. They talk, she eating dessert, he, drinking a coffee. We learn that Patricia wants very much to sleep with him, a little for friendship, but most of all because she is interested. She hopes to be able to write articles for the Spectacles section which he managed. He is holding a press conference at his hotel. Does Patricia want to go in the place of Clara, a girl at the paper? Patricia says yes. The journalist asks her if she was staying with him tonight. Patricia says yes, also.
They walk down the Champs-Elysées where the journalist’s car is parked. Night has completely fallen. Patricia realizes that Lucien has been spying on them since the bar where he had a drink. He follows them at a distance.
We stay with Lucien who buys a copy of the late edition of “France-Soir” as he is watching Patricia and the journalist get into an English automobile. The article in “France-Soir” says that the police have picked up Lucien’s tracks but that they don’t know under what name is living at the moment as he has several passports. He does not have a police file in France but he has a police record in New York and in Italy. While he is reading, Lucien goes back to the 403 and he follows the English automobile. He pulls alongside them at a red light. An exchange of looks with Patricia during which we pan across to her. She seems sad and then makes a slightly indifferent gesture.
THURSDAY MORNING. We follow Patricia as she crosses the Pont du Louvre returning home on foot. Her key is not in the rack. She goes up to her room. Her key is in her door. Patricia goes in and finds Lucien listening to the radio stretched out on her bed. He explains that all the hotels are packed because of tourists.
She lays down next to him. They prepare the schedule for the day. He will go with her to the press conference and then come to take her back. In the meantime, he will make his rounds completing his own business which, we know, consists in following the progress of the inquiry and in getting touch as soon as possible with Berruti who will endorse his check. As she knows nothing of his identity, Lucien as it regards Patricia, still is playing the role of the guy with plenty of money and a beautiful car.
They go outside to eat breakfast. While they are eating, he says that he must go to get his car at the garage and will retrun in five minutes. So, he must find a car to steal in five minutes. He locates one, a white Thunderbird convertible. The driver leaves it and goes into a building. Lucien follows him, goes up in an elevator with him, not saying a word. He sees him enter an office.
Soon, Lucien runs down the stairs like a cyclone, disconnects the wires, crosses them and starts to go to get Patricia at the terrace of the café.
WHILE PATRICIA attends the press conference, Lucien tries to sell the Thunderbird in a suburb. He does not succeed with the used car dealer. That one shows him “France-Soir”, which Lucien has forgotten to buy, with his photo captioned “Cop-Killer Still on the Run”. The dealer would like to buy the car but can give him the money only in a few days.
Lucien tries to sell money from a drawer. A fight between Lucien and the dealer. Lucien clearly has the advantage.
When he leaves, the dealer calls the police and tells them that he just heard Lucien ask if Patricia was there, at the N.Y. Herald Tribune.
This explains how the police, seen at the travel agency, are waiting for Patricia who is bringing her article to the editing room.
They show her a photo of Lucien. Patricia tells them, yes, she has gone out with him two or three times but she does not know where he is.
The police give her their telephone number. If she sees him again, will she alert them? OK, Patricia says.
She goes out. She realizes that one of the policemen is following her. She goes into a cinema after seeing that Lucien is following her and the policeman. She leaves by the exit door, then enters a cinema with Lucien a cinema on the opposite sidewalk of the Champs-Elysees, while the cop comes out astonished from the other cinema.
THURSDAY NIGHT. Leaving the cinema where they have seen a western, Patricia and Lucien look for a hotel to spend the night in as Patricia’s appears to be under surveillance. But all the hotels are booked because of the tourists.
Lucien looks more than ever to find Berruti to cash his check. He sees different characters in different neighborhoods, (a girl in Strasbourg St Denis – a bar owner at l’Opera and St Germain) .
They ride in an obviously stolen automobile. Lucien says to Patricia that, now he no longer has anything to lose, and if you are going to have problems, it is better to have them getting about by car than on foot.
But, to avoid risks anyways, he shows her the garage “scheme”, That is to say, he drives his car into a garage watched over by only one old attendant. He leaves it on the third level and takes another one. He has Patricia who he had told to hide while they entered drive it. The attendant seeing a pretty young woman driving a beautiful automobile says nothing. Finally, Lucien gets a hold of Berruti who is hanging around in Montparnasse . Berruti promises to help him, maybe tomorrow he could give him money for the check. While waiting, Lucien, having explained his problems, he gives Lucien the address of a model who is never at home where Patricia and Lucien could spend the night.
THE NEXT MORNING, while Lucien is getting ready to pack the bags with the money that Berruti has just brought him, Patricia announces a change of heart. She has just reported him to the police who will be here in ten minutes.
Lucien is furious, but he has to flee. He starts the car in which Berruti had just come to find him. Out of the driver’s window, he hurls insults at Patricia. The last shot shows Patricia watching Lucien leave and understanding nothing, for her French is still not perfected.