A hommage to Jean Seberg

Il a dit, vous êtes vraiement une dégueulasse”. “Qu’est-ce que c’est dégueulasse?”

Dialogue of the last scene in Jean-Luc Godard’s “Breathless” (1960).

In my early teens/early twenties I had a rather cinephile period, having easy access to VHS of all genres through my younger sister, who herself ended up being a film and fashion writer. 

Film noir, the golden age of musicals, Kubrick…were major influences on my developing mind..but a group of film makers perfectly answered the demands of my psyche: the French “nouvelle vague” (translation: new-wave).

To this day every Christmas I find isolation hidden somewhere in the volcanic mountains of central France, without any friends, away from tourists, the madness of urban life…and without Internet access! However I bring with me a portable DVD player, and I go through a good few films by Francois Truffaut and Eric Rohmer, my favourite directors. Then the batteries are recharged and I start the year with the notion that my life could be similar to how it is in these beautiful films. I lose this illusion fairly early in the new year, but at least I start off on a clean slate.

A landmark film of the nouvelle vague was the first full-length feature by Jean-Luc Godard: “A bout de souffle” or “Breathless” in English, featuring Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg. To get the financing, the young Swiss contributor at the “cahiers du cinema” had to credit Truffaut (recently crowned at Cannes for “The 400 blows) as having written the scenario, and Claude Chabrol as technical adviser, which were total lies, but without which this masterpiece would never have been produced, nobody being willing to gamble on this unknown “auteur”.

I have a particular personal connection with this film, having lived several years as a student in Paris at the corner of the Boulevard du Montparnasse and Rue Campagne-premiere. The latter street, unremarkable today, is the location of the last scene of the film, where the dialogue used as an introductory quote to this post takes place.

Unbeknownst to the actors and the director, the film was to have a major influence over the style of British youths of the time Fashion historians and protagonists of the period acknowledge Belmondo’s look and silhouette as being a key component of the early Mods style….

…and the Mods style, precisly, is itself a key component of the current Dsquared2 collection. An notable piece of the show is the “Toronto Caten Twins” t-shirt, with slashed sleeve detail, in white for men and grey melange for women. 

It is obvious from thelayout and the fonts that that the inspiration for this tee is the iconic top worn by Jean Seberg in the most well known scene of the film, where the beautiful Swedish actress strolls down the Champs-Elysées calling out ” New York Herald Tribune…”, sporting the name of the paper on the said garment. Here is an excerpt from that part of the film film: Seberg and Belmondo

Sadly the young beauty with the boyish haircut was to take her own life (some mystery still surrounds her death) in 1979. Belmondo will have a long career as a French blockbuster daredevil, self-deprecating and womanising hero, and Godard was to explore unchartered waters in film-making; yet works like “Le mepris” or “Pierrot le fou” are highly poetic and still accessible to non-initiated viewers. 

Now that you know the story, do not get a shock if you see me parading between the Arc de triomphe and the Place de la concorde in Paris, shouting “Toronto’s Caten Twins, Toronto’s Caten Twins…“.


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