HISTORY OF MODERN FRANCE
The Third French Republic 1870-1940. Part 14
28 September 2022
The French New Wave: “All you need to make a movie is a girl and a gun.” - Jean-Luc Godard
with Sylvie Koneski
The immediate post-war period in France witnessed an unparalleled flourishing of film culture, out of which grew the ciné-club movement dominated by the figure of film critic, André Bazin, the increased role of the Cinémathèque Française, founded by Henri Langlois, the explosion of new film reviews (the mythical Cahiers du Cinéma founded by André Bazin) and the popularity of film festivals. This cinephile ferment was unique to France, as was the level of passion in the writing of the new critics: François Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard and others. Alexandre Astruc’s “Camera-Pen” and Truffaut’s “A Certain Tendency in French Cinema” became the aesthetic manifestos of the politique des auteurs: attacking mainstream cinema, defending Hollywood and radically rethinking the place of cinema within culture. One way to achieve this was through the emphasis on mise en scène as ultimate source of meaning.
The film most responsible for bringing the attention of the world to this new cinematic movement was François Truffaut’s Les Quatre Cents Coups [The Four Hundred Blows], 1959, which caused a sensation at the Cannes festival. More than any other film Jean-Luc Godard’s À Bout de Souffle [Breathless], 1960, exemplified the New Wave movement; serving as a kind of manifesto for the group. The film itself is stylistically complex and revolutionary in its breaking of traditional Hollywood storytelling conventions. François Truffaut’s Jules et Jim was released in 1962: the story of two friends, one French, one Austrian, who both fall in love with the free-spirited but capricious Catherine. The style of the film came as a revelation, and it still stands out as a masterpiece.
Critics and academics continue to explore the New Wave because the films are so powerful and seductive.
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