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The Years of the French New Wave

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  1. The Years of theFrench New Wave MLL 235 Patricia L. Pecoy

  2. Authorism • The emergence of the film director as the undisputed authority in all areas of film production • Mise-en-scène • Photography • Script • Thematic and artistic choices • New Wave (beg. In 1958) – an innovative era

  3. 1960s Innovations • New Wave was a visual innovation • The audience would be required to participate in the narrative process • Avance sur recettes • Financial aid in the form of a Federal loan to assist directors • Encouraged risk-taking • Was granted by the Ministry of Cultre to film directors, producers and scriptwriters • New talents emerged: Jean-Paul Belmondo, Catherine Deneuve

  4. The Algerian Crisis • Fifth Republic was established in 1959 • President was Charles DeGaulle • New political structure guaranteed full power to the president • He led the discussions on Algerian self-determination • Evian Agreement (1962) • Gave Algeria its independence • Massive immigration movement was set in motion • Ended 8 years of conflict during which 1 million people died (out of 10 million)

  5. France under DeGaulle • Economic prosperity • Removed French forces from NATO, obligating all US troops to leave France • Visit to Montreal in 1967, he declared “Vive le Québec, Vive le Québec libre” to the dismay of Canadian officials • The “golden years” of the DeGaulle administration ended with May ‘68

  6. May ’68 • May 3 – students from Nanterre organized an insurrection • Student protests targeted an obsolete educational system • Soon joined by workers protesting working conditions • The strikes paralyzed the nation • Agreements of Grenelle • Signed by Prime Minister Georges Pompidou • Granted trade unions improved wages and working conditions • Granted students a modernized restructuring of the educational system

  7. DeGaulle Era Ends • The events of May ‘68 precipitated DeGaulle’s departure • He had seemed powerless to control events • Did not understand them • Georges Pompidou was elected president in June 1969

  8. Algeria and the film industry • The Algerian crisis deeply divided the nation • The draft involved almost 2 million Frenchmen • State censorship prevented references to the war in Algeria • French cinema could not provide commentary on the daily horrors of the war • Jean-Luc Godard – The Little Soldier (1960) • French censors prohibited its release • Gillo Pontecorvo – The Battle of Algiers (1965) – not released until 1972

  9. Les Cahiers du cinemaand the auteur theory • Les Cahiers du cinéma – founded in 1951 by Jacques Doniol-Valcroz and André Bazin with a group of young film critics, most of whom were under 30 • Quickly became the major reference for French film studies • Revealed new standards for French cinema • Reproached Hollywood’s long-established narratives and restricted story line subterfuges • François Truffaut – “Une certaine tendance du cinéma français “

  10. A Certain Tendency … • Attacked the Old Guard of French film directors • Attacked their “fossilized” production system, the predominance of scriptwriters, the lack of imagination, the theatrical concept of cinematic discourse, and dependence on commercial success • Spirit of collective encouragement • New Wave directors’ expertise in film theory and criticism during the 1950s was a decisive advantage in their battle against traditional cinema

  11. Positif • 1952 – Lyon –another influential review was founded • Battle between the two journals began • Basically it was a battle of content (Positif) vs. form (Cahiers) • Auteur directors: Alain Resnais, Agnès Varda, Chris Marker, Alain Robbe-Grillet and Marguerite Duras • Were called the Left Bank Group • Indirectly inspired the upheaval of May ‘68 • Older than the New Wave directors, members of the auteur movement were novelists or collaborators of the Editions du Seuil; had an attachment to a literary or intellectual background

  12. Left Bank Group • Took its narratives from the mental and intellectual processes of French literature • Choice of a literary scenario (altho opposed to traditional literary adaptations), the Left Bank Group paved the way for film studies to become a field as esteemed as any other academic field in the arts • Their real innovation was a reliance on the theory of montage (a denunciation of temporal continuity) – was an “editing point of view” characterized by the absence of logical connections and thus differentiated from traditional Hollywood linear narratives

  13. The Emergence of the New Wave • The term New Wave is applied to the period of French cinema that covers the years 1959 to 1965 • Majority of young directors were fascinated with American cinema • Prestige as an inventive national cinema • Predilection for location shooting • Attracted young, new talent • Existentialism (Sartre, Camus) was one of the key inspirations for the French New Wave

  14. Existentialism and the New Wave • Many characters in French New Wave movies were frequently outcasts, antiheroes, and loners (ex: Antoine Doinel in The 400 Blows or Michel Poiccard in Breathless) • Breakthroughs in the expression of physical love as an acceptable subject matter • Reverence of nature and use of outdoor location shooting using natural lighting • Smaller budgets, smaller crews, nonprofessional actors, shorter shooting time – drastically lowered production costs

  15. 1959 • First directors of the New Wave: • Claude Chabrol – Bitter Reunion and The Cousins • Truffaut – The 400 Blows • Alain Resnais – Hiroshima, Mon Amour • Jean-Luc Godard – Breathless (filming was finishing) • Cannes film festival – 1959 • 17 directors – each announced his dedication to the spirit of the New Wave • Was the Magna Carta of the New Wave

  16. Return of Commercial Movie Successes • Around 1965, the New Wave lost ground • French public was interested in big commercial productions (esp. when filmed in color and in Cinemascope) • It was a sort of second wind for the French cinema of quality • After the mid-1960s, the fundamental experimentations of the New Wave slowly began to be incorporated into more “regular productions

  17. Return of the tradition of quality • Was due in large part to the solid performances of several box office hit comedies • Were often based on the world of vaudeville • Comedian Louis de Funès • Ex: Don’t Look Now, We’re Being Shot At (La Grande vadrouille, 1966) • Takes place during the Nazi Occupation when an English fighter plane is shot down over Paris – three Englishmen are hidden • To this day, Don’t Look Now remains one of the most popular movies in film history (only recently surpassed by Welcome to the Sticks [2008])