Long before Quentin Tarantino and his imitators brought postmodernism to the cineplex, Jean-Luc Godard introduced movie audiences to the features we now associate with independent film: quirky plots, oddball characters, and unconventional technique. And there's no better place to witness the beginnings of hip postwar cinema than here: the Criterion Collection's digital remastering of Godard's first feature, A Bout de Souffle (Breathless, 1960), his simple tale of a bored, thrill-seeking American beauty (played by Jean Seberg) and her French lover, a car thief and cop killer played with amazing insouciance by Jean-Paul Belmondo. Along with Truffaut, Chabrol, and Resnais -- all former critics and future members of the New Wave -- Godard paid homage to the great American genre films and rejected the stolid style of mainstream, big-budget French movies. In Breathless he follows his young lovers with a hand-held camera through the streets of Paris and elsewhere crams us into a hotel room with them as they flirt, argue, and make faces. Godard's blend of high and low cultural references -- Belmondo mimics Bogart while Seberg quotes Faulkner -- would come to define postmodernism, and his moral ambiguities anticipate so much of the easy-riding, raging-bull generation of directors. The DVD extras include rare interview footage from the '60s and one of Godard's early shorts; the accompanying booklet collects key texts from his career as a critic. All of which testifies to, among other things, his genius for spontaneity. Godard's kinetic, jazzy style, with its legendary jump cuts within scenes, derived more from the exigencies of his shoestring budget than from planned technical subversion. The result is liberating -- indeed, breathtaking. -

April 24: "[The HST] lifted a curtain from our view of the universe, changing it so profoundly that no human can look at the stars in the same way..."

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysley Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
In the Light of What We Know

Zia Haider Rahman's mystery of a brilliant Bangladeshi mathematician's past barrels through the Ivy League, London high finance, and spy-haunted Afghanistan in a page-turning tale of exile, intrigue and the price of friendship. A Discover Great New Writers selection.

The People's Platform

Once touted as the foundation for tomorrow's digital democracy, the Internet is increasingly ruled by a few corporate giants, while millions of contributors till its fields for free. Astra Taylor looks at why the web has failed to deliver a communitarian cyberscape, and offers a compelling case for restoring its original vision.

A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.