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French New Wave. (1959 – c. 1970). French New Wave: Origins. “Romantic image of the young director fighting to make personal films that defy the conventional industry” Young, mostly male film fans self-educated at French Cinematheque in Paris

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french new wave

French New Wave

(1959 – c. 1970)

french new wave origins
French New Wave:Origins
  • “Romantic image of the young director fighting to make personal films that defy the conventional industry”
  • Young, mostly male film fans self-educated at French Cinematheque in Paris
  • A very coherent group, many wrote for the journal Cahiers du Cinema in their 20’s
    • François Truffaut
    • Jean-Luc Godard
    • Alain Resnais
    • Claude Chabrol
    • Eric Rohmer
    • Jacques Rivette
french new wave origins cont d
French New Wave:Origins (cont’d)
  • The Cahiers group set in place many of the important film theories:
    • Genre
    • Auteur
    • Realism
  • The New Wave also included the “Left Bank Group”
    • Chris Marker
    • Louis Malle
    • Jacques Demy
    • Agnès Varda
  • All knew each other and sometimes worked together, shared talent (e.g., actors, composers); e.g., Godard and composer Michel Legrand appear in Varda’s Cleo from 5 to 7
french new wave origins cont d4
French New Wave:Origins (cont’d)
  • The FNW group all loved genre and auteur films, and the Soviet Montage
  • All put their ideas about filmmaking into practice around ’60 due to “prime de la qualite” (subsidy for quality)–begun by Centre National du Cinema in ’53, with an added script-proposal process in ’59


  • “Film of the camera, not of the pen”
  • A wide variety of genres and approaches, almost always treated in a “revisionist” way—e.g., film noir, gangster cinema turned on its side for a film like Godard’s Breathless, Truffaut’s Shoot the Piano Player, or Melville’s Le Samouraï
  • Urban scenes “captured with the immediacy of Direct Cinema”
french new wave form
French New Wave:Form
  • Totally eclectic – whatever (that almost becomes the style); some call it “eccentric”
  • Emphasis on the mise-en-scène
  • Low budget, fast and light-weight (e.g., handheld camera); benefitted from technical advances in documentary shooting; style a lot like “indie” style today

Impacts on Films to Follow

  • Film School Generation (e.g., Spielberg, Scorsese)
  • American indie movement; So many influences
french new wave directors claude chabrol
French New Wave Directors:Claude Chabrol
  • June 24, 1930 – present
  • Writer-Director-Producer-Actor
  • Directed 71 films and TV shows since 1958
  • Served as a writer on 54 films and a Producer on 10 films since 1956
  • Performed in 51 films and TV shows since 1956
  • Important works:
    • Le Beau Serge (1958) – Chabrol won Best Director at the Locarno International Film Festival for this.
    • Les Cousins (1959) – Won Chabrol the Golden Berlin Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival
    • Le Boucher (1970) – Winner of the Bodil Award for Best European Film
  • Considered a master of the mystery genre, and credited with starting the “nouvelle vague” movement.
french new wave directors jean luc godard
French New Wave Directors:Jean-Luc Godard
  • December 3, 1930 – present
  • Directed 92 films and videos since 1954
  • Served as a writer on 76 films and videos and an editor on 40
  • Acted in 35 productions since 1950
  • Important works:
    • Breathless (1960) – Godard won the 1960 Prix Jean Vigo, the 1960 Silver Berlin Bear, and the 1961 Critics Award from the French Syndicate of Film Critics
    • Contempt (1963)
    • Alphaville(1965) – Godard won the Golden Berlin Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival
    • Week End (1967) – Godard was nominated for the Golden Berlin Bear
  • Famous quotes:
    • “In order to criticize a movie, you have to make another movie.”
    • “All you need to make a movie is a girl and a gun.”
french new wave directors alain resnais
French New Wave Directors:Alain Resnais
  • June 3, 1922 – present
  • Directed 48 films since 1936
  • Served as a writer on 3 films, cinematographer on 4, and an editor on 19
  • Important works:
    • Hiroshima, Mon Amour (1959) – Won the Critic’s Award from the French Syndicate of Cinema Critics, and the NYFCC Award from the New York Film Critics Circle Awards, both in 1960
    • Last Year in Marienbad(1961) – Won the Golden Lion at the 1961 Venice Film Festival
  • Won a Silver Berlin Bear from the Berlin International Film Festival in 1998, “for his lifetime contribution to the art of cinema.” Also won the Joseph Plateau Life Achievement Award the same year.
  • Nicknamed “The Sphinx”
french new wave directors jacques rivette
French New Wave Directors:Jacques Rivette
  • March 1, 1928 – present
  • Directed 33 films since 1949
  • Served as a writer on 24 films, and acted in 6
  • Important works:
    • Paris nous appartient (1960) – Won the Sutherland Trophy from the 1962 British Film Institute Awards
    • La religieuse (1966) – Rivette’s biggest commercial success, nominated for the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 1966
    • L’amour fou (1969) – Won the Sutherland Trophy from the 1969 British Film Institute Awards
  • Probably the least well-known of the French New Wave directors, Truffaut has written that the New Wave began “thanks to Rivette” and his films were strongly influential on better-known directors’ works.
french new wave directors eric rohmer
French New Wave Directors:Eric Rohmer
  • Birth name: Jean-Marie Maurice Schérer
  • April 4, 1920 – present
  • Directed 51 films since 1950
  • Served as a writer on 35 films and has acted in 9
  • Important works:
    • La Collectionneuse (1967) – Nominated for the Golden Berlin Bear, winner of the Silver Berlin Bear and the Youth Film Award in 1967
    • My Night at Maud’s (1969) – Winner of numerous awards, and received an Oscar nomination
  • Wrote the novel Elizabeth in 1946, under the pen name Gilbert Cordier.
  • Known for his slow-paced, dialogue-heavy stories.
french new wave directors fran ois truffaut
French New Wave Directors:François Truffaut
  • February 6, 1932 – October 21, 1984
  • Directed 27 films between 1955 and 1983
  • Served as a writer on 35 productions, two of them posthumous credits
  • Produced 19 films and acted in 14
  • Important works:
    • The 400 Blows (1959) – Nominated for the Palme d’Or and won the OCIC Award and Best Director at the 1959 Cannes Film Festival.
    • Shoot the Piano Player ( 1960)
    • Jules and Jim (1962) – Won Best Director at the 1962 Mar del Plata Film Festival.
    • Fahrenheit 451 (1966)
  • “Some day I’ll make a film that critics will like. When I have money to waste.”
french new wave directors jacques demy
French New Wave Directors:Jacques Demy
  • June 5, 1931 – October 27, 1990
  • Directed 21 films between 1955 and 1988
  • Served as a writer on 18 films between 1955 and 1991
  • Composer/lyricist for six films.
  • Best-known work:
    • The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) – Nominated for 5 Oscars, winner of the 1964 Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.
  • Married to Agnes Varda from 1962 to his death.
  • “I Will Wait For You,” a song he wrote for The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, was nominated for Best Original Song for the 38th Annual Academy Awards, and performed during the ceremony’s broadcast in 1966.
french new wave directors louis malle
French New Wave Directors:Louis Malle
  • October 30, 1932 – November 23, 1995
  • Directed 33 films between 1953 and 1994
  • Served as a writer on 16 films and produced 8
  • Best-known works came after the French New Wave movement:
    • Pretty Baby (1978)
    • My Dinner With Andre (1981)
    • Au Revoir Les Enfants(1987)
    • Vanya on 42nd Street (1994)
  • His 1958 film, Les Amants, earned the Heights Art Theater in Cleveland Heights an obscenity conviction; the Supreme Court reversed that in 1968. (Resulted in Justice Potter Stewart’s famous “I know it when I see it” quote regarding pornography.)
  • Often excluded from lists of French New Wave / Nouvelle Vague auteurs partly because he also worked in Hollywood.
french new wave directors chris marker
French New Wave Directors:Chris Marker
  • Real Name: Christian François Bouche-Villeneuve
  • July 29, 1921 - present
  • Directed 45 films and TV shows since 1952; produced 5
  • Served as a writer on 39 films, editor on 16, and cinematographer on 15
  • Important works:
    • Description D’un Combat (1960) – Won the Golden Berlin Bear and Youth Film Award at the 1961 Berlin International Film Festival
    • La Jetee (1962) – Won the 1962 Prix Jean Vigo, inspiration for Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys
    • Le Joli Mai (1963) – Won the Golden Lion and “Best First Work” awards at the 1963 Venice Film Festival
  • Studied with philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre
french new wave directors agn s varda
French New Wave Directors:Agnès Varda
  • May 30, 1928 - Present
  • Directed 46 films since 1955
  • Served as a writer on 39 films; has also served as producer, editor, cinematographer, and actress.
  • Important works:
    • Cleo From 5 to 7 (1962) – Nominated for the 1962 Palme d’Or, winner of the 1963 Critics Award from the French Syndicate of Cinema Critics
    • Le Bonheur (aka Happiness) (1965) – Winner of the 1964 Prix Louis Delluc and the 1965 Silver Berlin Bear
  • Born ArletteVarda; legally changed her name at 18
  • Was married to Jacques Demy
  • Member of the jury at the Cannes Film Festival in 2005
  • Nicknamed “the ancestor of the New Wave” when she was 30!
pre french new wave influences rules of the game
Pre-French New Wave Influences:Rules of the Game
  • French Title: La règle du jeu
  • Produced in 1939
  • Directed by Jean Renoir
  • Written by Jean Renoir and Carl Koch
  • Premiered in France July 8, 1939
  • Set at the onset of World War II, the film explores the relationships and foibles of a group of wealthy bourgeoiseeand their servants, as they gather for a hunting party where everyone has ulterior motives.
  • Banned by the French government for being too demoralizing, and then banned by the invading Nazi party for being too subversive. Between them, most prints were destroyed, and Allied bombers accidentally destroyed the original negatives. Renoir and friends were able to reconstitute the film; he claimed that only one minor scene was missing from the original cut!
  • The son of impressionist painter Auguste Renoir is considered the master of French Poetic Realism, with his grounded examinations of social issues.
  • In this film, the parallel social orders of the landed gentry and their servants are explored.
pre french new wave influences beauty and the beast
Pre-French New Wave Influences:Beauty and the Beast
  • French Title: La belle et la bête
  • Produced in 1946
  • Directed by Jean Cocteau
  • Written by Jean Cocteau and Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont
  • Premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in September 1946
  • Based on novelist Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont’s 18th century fairy tale.
  • Winner of the 1946 Prix Louis Delluc
  • Having moved from surrealism to fantasy, Cocteau provides an “icy perfection” in this beautifully photographed fairy tale.
french new wave key works le beau serge
French New Wave – Key Works:Le Beau Serge
  • Produced in 1958
  • Directed by Claude Chabrol
  • Written by Claude Chabrol
  • Premiered at the Locarno Film Festival in Switzerland in 1958
  • When a man returns to his home village after a decade away, he finds himself struggling to help his old friend Serge, who has become the town drunk during his absence.
  • Winner of the 1959 Prix Jean Vigo award, and the 1958 Silver Sail award from the Locarno International Film Festival.
  • Story set in small rural community; examines the nature of friendship
  • Very early French New Wave – note the long takes, roughness to the footage, sense of realism (a “bridge” between Italian Neorealism and mainstream FNW)
french new wave key works the 400 blows
French New Wave – Key Works:The 400 Blows
  • French Title: Les quatre cents coups
  • Produced in 1959
  • Directed by François Truffaut
  • Written by François Truffaut and Marcel Moussy
  • Premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, May 4, 1959
  • Semi-autobiographical story of young boy who turns to life of petty crime
  • Antoine, a neglected adolescent boy, finds himselftrapped in a life of petty crime and harsh punishments where all of his attempts to escape only make things even worse.
  • While it might seem that the “400 blows” in the title only refers to the number of times Antoine is beaten, the French idiom “faire les quatre cents coups” also means “to raise hell.”
  • Note the famous ending–long tracking shot followed by freeze frame.
french new wave key works jules and jim
French New Wave – Key Works:Jules and Jim
  • French Title: Jules et Jim
  • Produced in 1962
  • Directed by François Truffaut
  • Written by François Truffaut and Jean Gruault
  • Based on the novel by Henri-Pierre Roché
  • Premiered in France January 23, 1962
  • When two close friends both fall in love with the same woman, the impulsive and possibly unstable Catherine, a strange love triangle results and unspools over the course of several decades.
  • Starring Jeanne Moreau, Oskar Werner, Henri Serre
  • Love triangle gone wrong
  • Note how we meet Catherine–with multi-angle shots and jump cuts; the footrace sequence is characteristic of the loose, “anything goes” forms that FNW can take–very selective audio (e.g., we hear them breathing), very jumpy handheld camera
french new wave key works breathless
French New Wave – Key Works:Breathless
  • French Title: À bout de souffle
  • Produced in 1959
  • Directed by Jean-Luc Godard
  • Written by Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut
  • Premiered in France March 16, 1960
  • Romanticized gangster-hero takes up with an American girl and goes on the lam.
  • Starring Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jean Seberg
  • Note the overall violation of “classic” editing techniques–jump cuts, violation of 180-degree rule, sudden time jumps (elliptical cutting in the extreme), actor looks at camera; also, handheld
french new wave key works alphaville
French New Wave – Key Works:Alphaville
  • French Title:Alphaville, une étrange aventure de Lemmy Caution
  • Produced in 1965
  • Directed by Jean-Luc Godard
  • Written by Jean-Luc Godard and Paul Éluard
  • Premiered in France May 5, 1965
  • Revisionist science fiction examines society run by an “electronic brain”. . . Yeah.
  • Starring Eddie Constantine, reprising his popular Lemmy Caution character from French detective films of the 1950's.
  • Note the pseudo-freeze frames (a la My Own Private Idaho much later) that seem to capture the “essence” of the scene; sudden switch to negative footage; the strange, surreal, almost comical “car chase.”
french new wave key works last year at marienbad
French New Wave – Key Works:Last Year at Marienbad
  • French Title: L'annéedernière à Marienbad
  • Produced in 1961
  • Directed by Alain Resnais
  • Written by Alain Robbe-Grillet
  • Premiered in France June 25, 1961
  • A non-linear narrative about a man and woman who may (or may not) have met “last year at Marienbad,” and their divergent memories of the event (or non-event)–got that?
  • Note the shifting rhythm of the editing back and forth into the flashback; look for repeated footage, repeated events with different footage; Resnais’ ultimate experiment with time, geometry, memory, and reality.
french new wave key works the umbrellas of cherbourg
French New Wave – Key Works:The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
  • French Title: Les parapluies de Cherbourg
  • Produced in 1964
  • Directed by Jacques Demy
  • Written by Jacques Demy
  • Premiered in France February 19, 1964
  • Starring Catherine Deneuve, Nino Castelnuovo
  • Operatic musical about young lovers separated by war
  • Music by Michel Legrand, a favorite among New Wavers
  • Note the use of primary colors–audacious throughout (in parts not seen here, the characters’ clothes even match the wallpaper).
  • Note the use of a dolly to make the characters glide rather than walk (a la Spike Lee later).
french new wave more works shoot the piano player
French New Wave – More Works:Shoot the Piano Player
  • French Title: Tirez sur le pianiste
  • Produced in 1960
  • Directed by François Truffaut
  • Written by François Truffaut and Marcel Moussy
  • Based on the novel Down There by David Goodis
  • Premiered at the London Film Festival October 21, 1960
  • A bar pianist with a tragic past finds it returning to haunt him when his estranged brother shows up, with gangsters in hot pursuit.
  • With no budget, Truffaut and his crew shot the film on the fly, improvising the plot and ending based on which actors were available.
  • A hit with the critics but bombed at the box office.
french new wave more works hiroshima mon amour
French New Wave – More Works:Hiroshima Mon Amour
  • Produced in 1959
  • Directed by Alain Resnais
  • Written by Marguerite Duras
  • Premiered in France June 10, 1959
  • A French woman shooting a documentary in Hiroshima has an intense one-night stand with a Japanese man and their affair reminds her of her first love, a German soldier during WWII.
  • Made pioneering use of jump cuts and flashbacks, particularly the use of a very brief flashback to suggest a powerful, intrusive memory.
  • Originally was a documentary on Hiroshima until Resnais decided to add fictional elements.
french new wave more works cleo from 5 to 7
French New Wave – More Works:Cleo from 5 to 7
  • French Title: Cléo de 5 à 7
  • Produced in 1962
  • Directed by Agnès Varda
  • Written by Agnès Varda
  • Premiered in France April 11, 1962
  • While waiting for – and dreading – the results of abiopsy, a singer decides to break out of her usual routine and sample parts of life unfamiliar to her, culminating in an encounter with a soldier facing his own probable death as he prepares to ship out to Algeria.
  • Uncredited appearances by Jean-Luc Godard, Anna Karina, and Jean-Claude Brialy in a silent film Cleo watches.
french new wave more works fahrenheit 451
French New Wave – More Works:Fahrenheit 451
  • Produced in 1966
  • Directed by François Truffaut
  • Written by François Truffaut and Jean-Louis Richard, with additional dialogue by David Rudkinand Helen Scott
  • Based on the novel by Ray Bradbury
  • Premiered in Paris September 15, 1966
  • In a not-too-distant dystopia where reading and books are forbidden, one of the men in charge of destroying books is seduced by the printed page and finds himself questioning authority for the first time.
  • Truffaut’s first film in color and only film in English. Because he had not yet mastered the English language, other writers were brought in to “improve” the dialogue; Truffaut was never happy with the result and considered the English version far inferior to the French dialogue.
french new wave more works contempt
French New Wave – More Works:Contempt
  • French Title:Le mépris
  • Produced in 1963
  • Directed by Jean-Luc Godard
  • Adapted by Jean-Luc Godard from the novel Il Disprezzo by Alberto Moravia
  • Premiered in Italy October 29, 1963
  • A script doctor working on his biggest project yet,which may make or break him, inadvertently destroys his marriage when he accidentally makes his wife believe he wants her to sleep with his producer.
  • Fritz Lang plays himself, as the director of the film that Michel Piccoli’s character has been hired to make more commercially viable.
french new wave more works weekend
French New Wave – More Works:Weekend
  • French Title: Le week-end
  • Produced in 1967
  • Directed by Jean-Luc Godard
  • Written by Jean-Luc Godard
  • Premiered in France December 29, 1967
  • An embattled couple attempts to have an idyllicweekend in the country to repair their marriage.Instead, the weekend becomes a nightmare of accidents, civil war, murder, and mayhem as society disintegrates around them.
  • Dark surrealist comedy with a strong political bent.
french new wave more works my night at maud s
French New Wave – More Works:My Night at Maud’s
  • French Title: Ma nuit chez Maud
  • Produced in 1969
  • Directed by Eric Rohmer
  • Written by Eric Rohmer
  • Premiered in Sweden October 12, 1969
  • A devout Catholic on a quest to marry a young woman from his church has his beliefs put to the test when he spends the night at the apartment of free-thinking atheist Maud.
  • This is the film that many point to when they say that art house films are all about people talking incessantly!