The jump cut is an elliptical editing technique which foregrounds the form and constructed nature of cinema. A jump cut is where two successive shots contain an overt break in spatial or temporal continuity. Shot (1) is someone with a beer on a table, shot (2) is the same person lifting the beer and shot (3) the person drinking the beer. Traditionally in the continuity editing system we would see the order 1-2-3 in a simple representation of cause and effect. The jump cut removes shot (2) ensuring a jerky and overt instance of loss in aesthetic continuity. The jump cut is like a skip in the playing of a record or CD; an overt loss of continuity.
As A. R. Duckworth explains in an earlier article about A Bout de Souffle Godard’s use of the jump cut:
represents a significant divergence from the continuity editing system, The basic purpose of the continuity editing system is to establish a smooth continuous flow from shot to shot. (1.) The graphic, rhythmic, spatial and temporal relationship is edited so as to look smooth and uninterrupted. The movement from shot to shot is edited so that at all times an aspect of a shot, such as ’shapes, colours, tones of light or dark, or the direction or speed of movement’ is graphically matched to its corresponding shot, thereby ensuring a sense of aesthetic continuity. (2.) In A Bout de Souffle Godard uses the jump shot to create a sense of anxiety and dislocation. In a scene where Michel is explaining the physical aspects of Patricia he loves the camera jumps from shot to shot. The viewer becomes dislocated, unable to grasp the scene’s location: Godard is using the jump shot to replicate the character’s sense of isolation. Both Patricia and Michel are isolated from the culture they belong to, Michel is a criminal and Patricia is in a foreign county, and they attempt to find friendship in each others company. This attempt is futile because Godard refuses to use the shot-reverse-shot technique which would signify their connection; the jump shot ensures that both Michel and Patricia remain isolated individuals even when in each others company. The form of the jump shot ensures the characters in A Bout de Souffle remain isolated individuals without any hope of deep meaningful connection. This sense of isolation is repeated in the scene where Patricia and Michel making love, yet they still struggle to connect and ultimately remain isolated. Although they both constantly talk to each other they barely look at each other. Patricia looks past Michel as he talks to her, the scene then jumps to Michel alone looking into his reflection. This signifies the failure in communication that typifies Michel and Patricia’s relationship.
(1.) M, Pramaggiore & T, Wallis. (ed), Film a Critical Introduction, p. 356.
(2.) David Bordwell & Kristin Thompson, Film Art: An Introduction, Third Edition, London: McGraw-Hill Publishing, (1990) p. 218.