French New Wave




The French New Wave was a movement that lasted between 1959 to 1964. It all started with the Cinematheque Francois, an underground organization that would regularly show older films from around the world. This beget the cine-club, and by the 1954 there were 100,000 members in 200 clubs. From these clubs several magazines were created, the most famous of these were L’Ecran Francois, La Revue du Cinema, Postif, and the world known Cahiers du Cinema.
One of the two most influential people during this time was Alexandre Astruc who declared that, “the cinema is becoming a means of expression like the other arts before it, especially painting and the novel. It is no longer a spectacle, a diversion equivalent to the old boulevard theater...it is becoming, little by little, a visual language, i.e. a medium in which and by which an artist can express his thoughts, be they abstract or whatever, or in which he can communicate his obsessions as accurately as he can today in essay or novel”. What Astruc was saying , was that the cinema was now as personal as paintings and literature, instead of just a show.
The second and most influential of the two was André Bazin, who like Astruc believed that the cinema was equal to the novel. Bazin believed in the long take and the deep focus over the Soviet Montage, “composition in depth is seen as egalitarian in the sense that everything in the frame exists with equal clarity, thereby giving the spectator a choice: our eyes are free to roam from foreground to background and around. It is closer to the way we perceive in off screen life, and it reintroduces ambiguity into the structure of the image.” Bazin also championed the Italian Neorealism movement, for its revolutionary humanism, and it’s on location shooting, improvisational style, use of non actors, and for it’s long takes.
In 1950’s André Bazin founded Cahier du Cinema, a magazine that championed the director as Film’s true author. At Cahier du Cinema, Bazin further developed the theory of director as author of his film, the Auteur. “Bazin charted the main areas of film studies as we know them, effectively creating the discipline: authorship, which led Bazin’s disciples to develop the politique des auteurs.” Cahier du Cinema “brought together the leading French critics/film enthusiasts of the time- Francois Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Claude Chabrol, Eric Rohmer and Jacques Rivette...” These critics began devouring older movies, mostly silent films like, German Expressionism, Italian Neorealism, thirties French films and most particularly American studio films that were banned during Nazi occupation. “Here they learned to love directors like Howard Hawks and John Ford, the American masters who were virtually ignored in this country until the French critics made a case for their artistry.” These critics also made the world aware of Genre. The examples of genres are the Western films, Gangster films, Musicals, and Film Noir. But the most important observation was the director as Auteur. “They championed the director as the auteur, the creator of a personal vision of the world which progresses from film to film.” These critics began seeing style and same thematic consistencies in certain film directors, and held them in the highest light.
One of the first scandals in this wave of thought was an article written by Francois Truffaut in 1954, “A Certain Tendency in the French Cinema.” In his essay he criticized “the French postwar films that were adopted from novels and were heavily dependent upon plot and dialogue.” Truffaut also attacked Jean Delannoy and Rene Clement as they were stopping the growth of film as art.
The final influence on the French New Wave came in 1958. The Documentary filmmakers began using lighter and more mobile equipment, using smaller crews, and began rejecting structure in their scripts. Cinema Verite was the name applied, meaning Cinema truth. Then in 1959, France called for a “new wave” and it got it. The same year, twenty-four French directors made their first feature films, followed in 1960 by forty-three more features. All this was possible to accomplish with the advent of the lightweight film equipment and handheld action ruled the screen.
The first of these French New Wave films was Jean-Luc