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The New Wave

Page history last edited by Ian Stephens 14 years, 3 months ago



After World War II, a devastated France pushed for a reversion, back to classical styles and views. However, in the case of cinema, some were dissatisfied with the perceived "static" nature of French films. The artifice that demanded sets and studios, or films adapted from existing novels and plays, called for a new style of filmmaking. The "New Wave", or La Nouvelle Vague, started in the 1950's, and a small collective of French filmmakers and critics began to develop a personal, reflective style of cinema. The tenants that would later characterize the French New Wave were influenced by the Italian Neo-realists, as well as the grand productions of Hollywood, which produced a unique synthesis of popular culture and ground-level aesthetic.  These "New Wave" films often had little to no scripts and, on occasion,  relied heavily on improvisation. Many French filmmakers around this time also began to question the validity of the french studio system. Many argue that the first New Wave film was Claude Chabrol's Le Beau Serge.  


Many of the seminal New Wave directors were originally critics for the film magazine, Cahiers du Cinema (wikipedia).  Among these film critics were Francois Truffaut, Jean-Luc Goddard, and Claude Chabrol, who would all direct landmark New Wave films. Frequently, these filmmakers would appear in each others films, leading to a communal approach to their cinematic output.  Like the Bloomsbury Group to modern British literature, the collaborative capacity of the French New Wave (or at least its most prominent members) produced films now recognized as essential.


While the aforementioned directors are arguably some of the more famous New Wave filmmakers, a later group of directors, often identified as "The Left Bank" also produced radical, important films.  Some of the individuals comprising this group included Chris Marker, Alain Resnais, and Agnes Varda.  While the Left Bank were somewhat dissatisfied with what they perceived as the "conformity" of the established New Wave directors, the two groups were not at odds with one another (wikipedia).


Film Techniques 
Although the films considered to be part of the French New Wave were varied in their approach and philosophy, they often adhered to a certain spontaneity's and realism.  All the props and equipment had been improvised. For instance, one director needed to do a tracking shot and simply used a shopping cart to move the camera.  The films often had very tight budgets and would use people they knew as the cast and crew and their own houses as sets. They often employed natural lighting in real locations, usually with handheld cameras, so that they could spontaneously shoot if they needed to. In many of these films, actors would talk to the audience directly, shattering the encapsulated reality of the film. This postmodern technique allowed many of the French New Wave films to act as a self-aware commentary on popular culture, or on the nature of film itself.  This notion seems to rebel against the most fundamental intentions of linear narrative and parallel editing, as the film serves to "shock" the audience, rather than placate, or absorb, with its cinematic reality.
Famous Examples of New Wave Filmmaking
  • Le Beau Serge (1958), dir. Claude Chabrol
  • Les Quatre Cents Coups (The 400 Blows) (1959), dir. Francois Truffaut
  • Breathless (1960), dir. Jean-Luc Goddard
  • Jules et Jim (1962), dir. Francois Truffaut
  • Cleo de 5 a 7 (1962), dir. Agnes Varda
  • Pierrot Le Fou (1965), dir. Jean-Luc Goddard
  • Masculin, Feminin (1966), dir. Jean-Luc Goddard

 Works Consulted

"Cinema of France." Wikipedia. Web. 29 Sept. 2009. <wikipedia.org>. 

"History of French Cinema." Kwintessential. Web. 30 Sept. 2009.      <http://www.kwintessential.co.uk/articles/article/France/History-of-French-Cinema/563>. 

Strozykowski, Michelle. "Film History: French New Wave.Foreign Films. 12 Mar. 2008. Web. 30 Sept. 2009.      <http://foreignfilms.suite101.com/article.cfm/film_history_french_new_wave>. 

Comments (2)

Ian Stephens said

at 10:01 am on Nov 9, 2009

...I felt bad about making a list that was too Goddard-heavy. I now see the error of my ways.

Sean Desilets said

at 11:14 pm on Nov 8, 2009

Um, _Breathless_?

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