The Rebirth of Modern Film. The French New Wave (“Le Nouvelle...

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French New Wave

French New WaveThe Rebirth of Modern FilmEarly BeginningsThe French New Wave (Le Nouvelle Vague) movement is primarily placed in the era from 1958-1964, but its influences span well beyond that time period.

Early BeginningsAs with Italian Neo-realism, French New Wave was in part a by-product of the post WWII era (along with Film Noir).

Early BeginningsAs a result of the German occupation of France during the war, many filmmakers (Ren Clair, Jean Renoir, Jacques Feyder) had to go into exile.

Early BeginningsNew filmmakers emerged following the war. These included Rene Clement who, with playwright, Jean Cocteau, produced the film; Beauty and the Beast (La Belle et la Bte).

Andr Bazin and Jacques Donial-ValcrozeFormed the groundbreaking journal of film criticism; Cahiers du CinemaInfluenced by the writings of French film critic Alexandre Astruc, who had argued for breaking away from the "tyranny of narrative" in favor of a new form of film (and sound) language.Believed that, at its heart, it is the responsibility of cinema to represent reality as closely as possible (as evidenced, for example, by technology that tried to make film more realistic).At its best, French New Wave film should be as true as possible to reality first and artistic / narrative last (Think the Lumiere Brothers versus Georges Melies debate Is film meant to be realistic or imaginary in nature?)

The Principles of French New Wave CinemaCahiers had two guiding principles:1) A rejection of classical montage-style filmmaking (favored by studios up to that time) in favor of: mise-en-scene, or, literally, "placing in the scene" (favoring the reality of what is filmed over manipulation via editing), the long take, and deep composition2) A conviction that the best films are a personal artistic expression and should bear a stamp of personal authorship, much as great works of literature bear the stamp of the writer. This latter tenet would be dubbed by American film critic Andrew Sarris the "auteur (author) theory."

Auteur Theory This philosophy, not surprisingly, led to the rejection of more traditional French commercial cinema (Clair, Clement, Henri-Georges Clouzout, Marc Allegret, among others), and instead embraced directors - both French and American - whose personal signature could be read in their films. The French directors the Cahiers critics endorsed included Jean Vigo, Renoir, Robert Bresson and Marcel Ophls; while the Americans on their list of favorites included John Ford, Howard Hawks, Alfred Hitchcock, Fritz Lang, Nicholas Ray and Orson Welles, indisputed masters, all. There were also a few surprising, even head-scratching favorites, including Jerry Lewis (thus beginning the stereotype about France's Lewis obsession) and Roger Corman. (Green Cine)Rejection of TraditionWhile the Nouvelle Vague may never have been a formally organized movement, its filmmakers were linked by their self-conscious rejection of the cinma de qualit (cinema of quality), the pompous and expensive costume pictures that dominated the French filmscape at the time. Besides being made to impress rather than express, these films generally afforded their directors very little freedom or creative control, instead catering to the commercial whims of producers and screenwriters. (New Wave Film)

Rejection of TraditionNew Wave film was intended to reject the formulaic, big budget films of Hollywood and the rest of the studio-driven, economically-motivated cinematic world at the time. French New Wave and similar movements (such as the British Free Cinema), in part, took creative control of film away big studios, writers and financial heads and put it in the hands of filmmakers. Arguably this was a major contributor to the art house film movement (not a formal movement per se), that was willing to make films that were artistically and culturally relevant without concern for overwhelming commercial success or flawless filmmaking.Critics Turned DirectorsSince many of the New Wave directors were on limited budgets and has only a minimal understanding of film production, their films adhered to some basic conventions that were as much practical as artistic:Jump cuts: a non-naturalistic edit, usually a section of a continuous shot that is removed unexpectedly, illogically Shooting on location Natural lighting Improvised dialogue and plotting Direct sound recording Long takes The Best Examples (as suggested by the Green Cine website an excellent site for film info):French New Wave Classics: The 400 Blows launched both the filmmaking career of FranoisTruffaut and the Antoine Doinel series. Alphaville (Criterion Edition): Eddie Constantine talks to an electric fan in this sci-fi gangster noir. It works. Band of Outsiders (Bande part) is one of Jean-Luc Godard's most poetic and accessible films. Breathless (A bout de souffl): Imitating Bogart's cool, Belmondo created one all his own. The Bride Wore Black (1967): Truffaut's most overt homage to Hitchcock is quite an entertaining diversion. Contempt features a fascinating, self-reflective performance from Fritz Lang. Hiroshima, Mon Amour, a haunting collaboration between Marquerite Duras and Alain Resnais. Jules and Jim, Truffaut's fast-paced yet touching, often-imitated story of the cinema's most famous mnage trois. Last Year at Marienbad, Resnais's visually thrilling, narratively challenging meditation on, among other things, cinema itself. Sources