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New Wave Cinema . Film Realism and Formalism. Table of Contents. 1) Nouvelle vague 2) Nouvelle vague’s contribution to film realism 3) Realism or Formalism?. Nouvelle vague. ‘New Wave’ Cinema

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new wave cinema

New Wave Cinema

Film Realism and Formalism

table of contents
Table of Contents

1) Nouvelle vague

2) Nouvelle vague’s contribution to film realism

3) Realism or Formalism?

nouvelle vague
Nouvelle vague
  • ‘New Wave’ Cinema
  • Films in the late 1950s and 1960s which are loosely linked by their self-conscious rejection of conventional film-making methods.
  • Radical experiments in narrative construction, mise-en-scène, montage, and subjects and themes (political)
nouvelle vague1
Nouvelle vague

Jean-Luc Godard François Truffaut

(1930- ) (1932-1984)

nouvelle vague2
Nouvelle vague

Eric Rohmer Claude Chabrol

(1920 - 2010) (1930 - 2010 )

nouvelle vague3
Nouvelle vague

Jacques Rivette André Bazin

(1928 - ) (1918 - 1958)

nouvelle vague4
Nouvelle vague

Film journalists and critics for Cahiers du cinema

a) Attacked the films of many master film makers of the day

nouvelle vague5
Nouvelle vague
  • Reappraisal of:

- certain directors considered as outdated (Jean Renoir and Max Ophüls);

- eccentric directors (Jacques Tati and Robert Bresson);

- those were considered unimportant or inartistic (Howard Hawks, Otto Preminger, Samuel Fuller, Nicholas Ray and Alfred Hitchcock).

  • CINEASTE - watched a huge number of films at Cinématèque française (Henri Langlois’s creation) and had a encyclopediac knowledge of world cinema.
nouvelle vague6
Nouvelle vague


  • Claude Chabrol’s Le Beau Serge
  • François comes back to his home village after a decade to find that his village hasn’t changed but his friend, Serge has.
nouvelle vague7
Nouvelle vague


  • François Truffaut’s Quatre cent coups (Four Hundred Blows)
  • Semi-autobiographical film about a boy who is neglected and misunderstood by his parents and teachers, skipping school, stealing a typewriter and being sent to institution
nouvelle vague8
Nouvelle vague


  • By this time, those young film makers had become a force to reckon with.
  • Jacques Rivette’s Paris, nous appartient (Paris Belongs to Us)
nouvelle vague9
Nouvelle vague
  • Jean-Luc Godard’s A Bout de souffle (Breathless)
  • A small-time thief, Michel Poiccart steals a car and murders a policeman. In the end, he is betrayed by his ambiguous girl friend, Patricia.
nouvelle vague10
Nouvelle vague
  • Claude Chabrol’s Les Cousins
  • Charles comes to Paris to share an apartment with his decadent cousin, Paul. He falls love with Paul’s friend, Florence. Paul does not care much about a serious relationship and his cousin’s interest in his girlfriend.
contribution to film realism
Contribution to Film Realism

- the lack of tight narrative structure

- ignoring technical conventions

- the heavy reliance on improvisation

contribution to film realism1
Contribution to Film Realism
  • CASUALNESS → to give nouvelle vague films a great sense of presence = a significant instance of reality effects.
  • For reality ‘is’ more casual than well-structured.
  • The sense of presence similar to the one found in a live TV programme, a documentary film or an amateur film.
contribution to film realism2
Contribution to Film Realism
  • Hans Holbein Portrait of a Gentleman
  • Edouard Manet, The Balcony
contribution to film realism3
Contribution to Film Realism
  • Auguste Renoir, Dance at the Moulin de la Galette
contribution to film realism4
Contribution to Film Realism
  • ‘All artistic discoveries are discoveries not of likenesses but of equivalencies which enable us to see reality in terms of an image and an image in terms of reality.’

E.H. Gombrich

  • ‘If you ask me what the world looks like to me, it looks like a painting by Pissarro.’

Ernst Gombrich

contibution to film realism
Contibution to Film Realism

A) The lack of narrative structure: Truer to actual situations

Unclear narrative goal - e.g. the protagonists drift aimlessly, start actions on the spur of the moment (Chabrol's Les Cousins, Rivette’s Paris, nous appartient)

Improvisation - unpredictableness

→ naturalness

contribution to film realism5
Contribution to Film Realism
  • Constant detours and digressions from the main gangster film narrative (Truffaut's Tirez sur le pianiste, Shootthe Piano Player, 1960)
contribution to film realism6
Contribution to Film Realism

b) Unconventional mise-en-scène

Location shooting and opposition to studio film making: the influence of Neorealist film makers (Rivette's Paris Belongs to Us and almost all other Nouvelle vague films)

contribution to film realism7
Contribution to Film Realism
  • Studio lighting was replaced by available light and some auxiliary sources. Filming without artificial lighting was made possible by the availability of fast film stock.
  • e.g. Quatre cents coups
contribution to film realism8
Contribution to Film Realism
  • Frequent and agile camera movements - panning and tracking by a hand-held camera or a light camera.
  • Eclaire camera (mainly used in documentary film - direct cinema)
contribution to film realism9
Contribution to Film Realism
  • The long tracking shot with a hand-held camera of Antoin Doinel in Quatre Cents Coups
  • Impressive stop-motion (formalist ending)
contribution to film realism10
Contribution to Film Realism
  • Hand-held elcaire camera captures Patricia and Michel walking along Champs Elysée
  • Passer-bys gaze at them and walk in front of the camera.
contribution to film realism11
Contribution to Film Realism
  • Claude Lelouche’s Un Homme et une femme (1966)
  • Images go occasionally out of focus or shot against light or the sun
contribution to film realism12
Contribution to Film Realism
  • Direct sound recording with noises not being erased
  • Eric Rohmer’s films
  • Compare two restaurants scenes in Rohmer’s Aviator’s Wife and Rob Rainer’s When Harry Met Sally
realism or formalism
Realism or Formalism?
  • Nouvelle vague filmmakers - self-conscious film makers
  • Do not hide that their films are disguised reality and not reality itself.
  • They rather manifest that their films are ‘films’ - something artificially created and invented
realism or formalism1
Realism or Formalism?
  • Films are created not only from imitating reality but also from referring to other films - a form of artifice
  • Films are not representations of reality but commentaries on the film and the process of film making
realism or formalism2
Realism or Formalism?
  • François Truffaut’s Jules et Jim (1962) - encyclopedia of film techniques (freeze frame, wipe, masking, swish pan, the insertion of newsreel footage and still photos, etc.)
  • Casual composition and out of focus photography shot by zoom lens.
  • Film as play and joke (e.g.)
realism or formalism3
Realism or Formalism?
  • Jean-Luc Godard’s Pierrot le feu
  • Samuel Fuller’s cameo appearance commenting on filmmaking.
realism or formalism4
Realism or Formalism?
  • A film is made of quotations from other films.
  • A bout de souffle and Humphrey Bogart
  • Phillip Marlow in Big Sleep and Michel in A Bout de souffle