Godard, Breathless & Ilford

“Even film processing became an adventure of invention.”

In order to film at night without added lighting, Godard drew on Coutard’s earlier experience as a still photographer and asked him to name his favorite kind of film for low-light still photography.  Coutard chose a film produced by British firm Ilford, but Ilford did not manufacture it in the 400-foot rolls that were standard movie stock – it was sold only in small canisters of 17.5 meters (approximately 46 feet), which fit 35mm still cameras.  Godard went to a photography supply store to buy out the store’s inventory.  He and Coutard extracted the rolls from their containers, and on location, two assistants were employed to load and unload the movie camera’s film magaizes with the tiny spools (which could be used for approximately thirty seconds worth of filming).  After the shoot Godard and Coutard used lightproof changing bags to splice the many short rolls together into longer ones so that they could be processed by the film laboratory.

Even film processing became an adventure of invention.  Godard wanted to push-process the film, to develop it in a special chemical bath that would increase its sensitivity to light, further compensating for the absence of additional lighting.  Laboratories, however, customarily processed film in far larger batches than the quantity Godard produced for Breathless.  He persuaded the laboratory used by Beauregard to set aside a small and rarely used developing machine for the special chemical bath.

Everything is Cinema: The working life of Jean-Luc Godard by Richard Broday [Amazon]