The French New Wave was considered a European art form during the late 50s and 60s and it was led by a group of young filmmakers who were connected to the anti-establishment magazine ‘Cahiers du cinema’. The French New Wave movement was a self-conscious rejection against the trend of the older French directors, their literary styles, and their more restrained approach to filmmaking. Alexandre Astruc’s manifesto, “The Birth of a New Avant-Garde: The Camera-Stylo”, published in L’Écran on 30 March 1948, outlined some of the ideas of the French New Wave that were later expanded upon by director François Truffaut and the Cahiers du cinéma. It argues that “cinema was in the process of becoming a new means of expression on the same level as painting and the novel.” Truffaut ultimately devised the ‘auteur theory’, which stated that the director was the “author” of his work; that directors such as Jean Renoir, Nicholas Ray and Alfred Hitchcock have distinct styles and themes that permeate all of their films. Although his theory was not widely accepted then, it gained some support in the 1960s from American critic Andrew Sarris who gave it its name. Cahiers co-founder and theorist André Bazin also was a prominent source of influence for the birth of the French New Wave movement. By means of criticism and editorialization, the Cahiers du cinema laid the groundwork for a set of concepts, revolutionary at the time. The French New Wave was to be more rebellious, personal and freewheeling. Such innovative stylistic decisions to use radical jump cuts, on location shooting, improvise dialogue, natural lighting, hand-held cameras and shots that go beyond the common 180° axis added a raw style and spontaneous energy to the films. The French New Wave also incorporated such cinematic aesthetics as newsreel footage, photographic stills, freeze frames, panning shots, wipes, masking, dolly shots, and voice-over narration. Key themes explored in the French New Wave include breaking the distinguishing boundaries of realism, establishing ambiguous narratives, and the idea of exploring the liberating sexual freedoms between men and women. The French New Wave movement was broken into two subgroups: the Cahiers du Cinema group and the Left Bank Cinema group. The Cahiers du Cinema group was looked at as more famous and financially successful. Most of the critics were younger, more literary and much more hardcore movie buffs. The filmmakers who constituted the Cahiers du Cinema group were Claude Chabrol, Francois Truffaut, and Jean-Luc Godard. The Left Bank New Wave group of Alain Resnais, Chris Marker and Agnes Varda, were a contingent of filmmakers who were slightly older than the Cahiers du Cinema group. They tended to see cinema through the themes of abstract memory, surrealistic dreams and experimental filmmaking. The French New Wave was also influential with its cool detachment of narcissistic characters who were selfish, obsessed with themselves and oblivious to society and of the outside world. These anti-heroes in the cinema was a direct response to the anti-establishment of authority figures and of the rebellious youth in the late 1960’s, which would start a trend that would be expanded upon by upcoming method actors with the rise of the New Hollywood Movement in America during 1967-1974.
Influential French New Wave filmmaker Agnès Varda received an honorary Palme d’Or at the 68th Cannes Festival. The Palme d’Or award goes to directors whose work achieved a culturally and global impact to world cinema. Her winning followed in the footsteps of such legendary greats Woody Allen, Bernardo Bertolucci and Clint Eastwood. Her career is […]
Jean-Luc Godard’s cathartically political and infuriating masterpiece Weekend is one of the key films of the late 1960’s. It is on one hand a chaotically brilliant black comedy and on the other hand a surrealistically acid disdain on the nihilistic bourgeoisie consumer society. Weekend is less like a film and more like a abstract angry political collage, as its pop art […]
It is said in France that between the afternoon hours of five to seven, those are the magical hours that lovers first meet one another. And during these two hours of Agnes Varda’s film Cleo from 5 to 7, nothing can be further from the truth. (Even though technically the film is clocked in at only 90 minutes.) […]
Francois Truffaut’s Shoot the Piano Player is one of Truffaut’s most entertaining and affectionate tributes to the low-budget pulp crime genre, and of the comic films of Chaplin Chaplin and The Marx Brothers that he grew up adoring. It tells the simple story about a classical pianist, who tries to run away from his past after his wife’s tragic suicide, and […]
If a viewer is not used to the films of French director Jean-Luc Godard, than Pierrot le fou can be an extremely frustrating experience. Like other great artists like Bergman, Fellini, Ozu, Bresson, Dreyer and Tarkovsky, once you get used to the world that Godard has created for you, you end up appreciating and enjoying his films much more. And […]