These and other devices combine to give the sense of a film as a kind of assemblage - different bits of the material world put together in a particular way." (BFI, 1) The moment of silence is famously divergent from the formula of sound presentation. By cutting the soundtrack altogether, Godard boldly pulls back the curtain on the process, making a very clear mechanical maneuver with a poignant emotional impact on the viewer. The moment of silence is oddly deafening, with nothing but the suspended expressions on the characters and the movements around them suggesting nothing in the way of an actual experience, with such silence in a busy cafe being impossible. Instead, the experience is purely emotional, with the tension of this silence weighing heavily on the viewer. Ultimately, the impact is a surprising lack of conscientiousness for the viewer as to the audio device engaged. Instead, the connection between the moment of silence for the characters and the audience becomes something real and moving.
Of course, sound is only a single dimension of the many that the French New Wave moment manipulated in order to change the way that films ware made. Here, we begin to perceive the French New Wave period not just for the films which it produced, but for the directors themselves. Not just in terms of the different ways that they presented individual stories, but moreover for the manner in which they each pursued their body of film work as reflective of some unique identity, the leaders of the New Wave movement would be instrumental in defining the filmmaker as auteur. Just as Godard would exemplify this notion of stylistic continuity across otherwise unrelated films, Truffaut would explicate it. Accordingly, "it became increasingly obvious that a director could be identified not simply the similarity of his own unique style. Truffaut and Chabrol described the concept in terms of embroidered fabric or tapestry." (Douchet & Bononno, p. 98)
For Truffaut in particular, this promoted the idea that the filmmaker should be perpetually exploring both a thematic spectrum and an expressive spectrum that can be used to identify a whole body of work with purpose. Certainly, Tarantino's work is indicative of this. His revolving cast of well-reasoning lowlifes exists in a single but expansive universe that merges Southern California, Hong Kong and the Wild West into a single context in which violence, codes of honor and underworld dalliances are the norm. Similarly, the manner in which Tarantino borrows liberally from drive-in and popcorn movie traditions of pratfall violence, impossibly clever and archetypally cool in order to create a pointedly comic-book like world denotes a personal stamp that permeates all of his films. In this respect, the director's voice is more audible than the vision of any one film.
So is this also demonstrable in the work of Wes Anderson, whose Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Royal Tannenbaums and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou demonstrate the modern auteur's approach to filmmaking. For Anderson, there is world comprised of absurdly flawed, insecure and dramatic figures whose behavior defies rational order but for which no checks or limitations exist other than their own consciences. The Life Aquatic captures this perhaps at its best, casting one of Anderson's favorite collaborators, Bill Murray, at the title character. The wounded and reckless performance that Anderson culls from Murray is actually a continuation of the numb depressive which the same actor plays in Rushmore and the emotionally stunted therapist that he plays in Tannenbuams. Using a bright, primary color scheme to convey his universe, and filling it with head-cases, Anderson has used his larger body of work as a psychotherapeutic examination of the American family, whether through Murray's fractured marriage in Rushmore, his forced paternal relationship with Ned (Owen Wilson) in Life Aquatic, or, excluding Murray, Luke Wilson's only pertinent relationship as an older brother in Bottle Rocket and the estrangement between brothers around which The Darjeeling Limited would center. Truffaut's notion of the auteur seems significantly to justify Anderson's continued exploration of a theme and style which have rendered his films important to modern viewers.
This is likewise true of Charlie Kaufman, who may be said to be evolving now into a director of note with his debut work on Synechdoche, New York. As a screenwriter over the last decade, his work on Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Being John Malkovich and Adaptation have all demonstrating the willingness afforded to modern filmmakers by the French New Wave to toy somewhat aggressively with the rules of reality vs. The rules of film-making. Here, we trace Kaufman's particular focus on human memory and consciousness to the innovations made by such French filmmakers as Alain Resnais. Particularly, his tremendously important Hiroshima, Mon Amour comes to consideration. Accordingly to Ankeny (2008), refers to the 1959 feature-length film Hiroshima Mon Amour as landmark in nature. Ankeny further notes that "written by novelist Marguerite Duras and photographed by Sacha Vierny (also a mainstay of the director's later work), it brilliantly fused the past with the present and poetic imagery with stark documentary footage to arrive at an alchemical kind of filmmaking without obvious precedent." (p. 1)
This may be seen as the conceptual forebear to Kaufman's ongoing exploration of the real and the cinematic. In Being John Malkovich, the title character is not only a real actor playing himself, but he is playing a version of himself who has somehow become a vehicle for the exploration of self and consciousness for the film's other characters. This very idea demands a consideration of Resnais' presentation of modern life as it is conveyed through the isolation and alienation experienced therein. This is an execution of the idea that meaning is created in the viewer's assimilation of non-linear ideas. Here, Hill (1998) points out that "any event that makes meaning can be called a text if we can isolate and define its outside boundaries and its internal structure -- and our responses to it (for a text to be complete, it must be seen; read, heard by someone). If we think of this in relation to a film, we begin to see how hard it is to define the film text -- or texts -- which are physical, narrative, economic, and cultural." (Hill, 12)
This idea, as it associates to Resnais and Kaufman, may be said also to apply to the French New Wave and the cast of modern directors influences thereby. In essence, their common ground is in the exploration of this complex idea of text. What distinguishes these figures from their contemporaries in either period of time is their shared dedication to evoking all of these dimensions of the film text by creating a singular film universe through which to explore the notion of reality
Ankeny, J. (2008). Alain Resnais. The New York Times.
British Film Institute (BFI). (2007). Paris Match: Godard and Cahiers. Sight & Sound.
Brody, R. (2008). Everything Is Cinema: The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard. Metropolitan Books.
Douchet, J. & Bononno, R. (1999). The French New Wave. D.A.P./Distibuted Art Publishers,…