¶ … French New Wave
French cinema, by the time the second world war ended, was faced with a crisis fittingly summarized by posters that advertised Mundus-Film (distributors for First National, Goldwyn, and Selig). These posters implied that the cannon operated by America's infantrymen launched film after film targeted at the French. La Cinematographie francaise (soon to become the leading French trade journal) claimed that every week 25,000 meters of film imported mainly from America were presented in France for each 5000 meters of local French films. French-made films often constituted as little as 10% of the films screened in Parisian cinemas. Henri Diamant-Berger, publisher of French magazine 'Le Film', bluntly stated that France could be in jeopardy of turning into a 'cinematographic colony' of America (Nowell-Smith).
"French New Wave" is one of the film movements shaping the history of French cinema. Rejuvenating the prestigious French cinema, the New Wave that emerged in the late 50's to early 60's invigorated international cinema, film theory, and criticism. This reminds contemporary viewers of the impact of Italian neo-realism immediately following the second world war. A dramatic change in film-making was caused by the New Wave, both inside France as well as outside, encouraging new themes, modes and styles of production all over the world. All of a sudden, scores of young, new directors in their twenties and thirties, such as Claude Chabrol, Francois Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard and Louis Malle, began producing films and launching new movie stars, like Jean-Claude Brialy, Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jeanne Moreau. Because of the introduction of new norms for production, in addition to a group of new, young producers keen on participating in this spurt of film-making, approximately 120 first-timers began to shoot motion pictures of feature length from 1958-1964. Furthermore, several young directors presented a number of movies in those years; for instance, Jean-Luc Godard made eight feature films in just four years. Thus, the sum total of films created by the New Wave was staggering. A whole generation could experiment with story-telling rules, and also rethink traditional production norms and film budgets. An entire new range of options was born for movie aesthetics, often combining past tactics, which were restored and reinvigorated for the modern age (Neupert).
Partly owing to a revived interest in France's New Wave on the occasion of its 40th anniversary, this movement has garnered increased attention in recent times from several historians and critics, including leading French cinema scholarship figures such as Antoine de Baecque, Michel Marie and Jean Douchet. The French journal on cinema, Cahiers du cinema, published a special 'nouvelle vogue' issue. However, given the New Wave's significance, variety and depth, there are many aspects of this movement that haven't been examined. Large survey records essentially condense the era, along with its main figures to simple summaries. Texts such as French Cinema by Roy Armes, Republic of Images by Alan William, and The New Wave by James Monaco, devoted particularly to the New Wave or French cinema, show different perspectives with respect to the New Wave. Often they focus on those directors who, before shooting their first features, started off as Cahiers du cinema critics.
The New Wave, for James Monaco, really comes down to Claude Chabrol, Francois Truffaut, Eric Rohmer, Jacques Rivette, and Jean-Luc Godard; he is not concerned with describing the historic movement, or for that matter, its dates. The New Wave age of France is divided by Armes into different renewal clusters, coming from different new directors. However, for Armes, these directors come from criticism as their roots; thus, he too considers only those filmmakers having their roots in Cahiers du cinema as being 'pure' members. Armes avoids describing the movement as critical or historical. Williams' survey history is large and comprehensive, establishing major influences and grouping the most prominent directors as 'reformists'. Williams includes Chabrol, Truffaut, and Malle, as distinct from radical directors such as Godard or more marginal ones like Rohmer (Neupert).
Paris-born Jean-Luc Godard, who belonged to a Franco-Swiss upper-middle class family, grew up in Switzerland. He was a student of ethnology in Sorbonne University, Paris; his growing attraction to films got him distracted from his studies. Initially, he was supported by is family, though when he turned 21, they stopped funding him. Refusing to take up a profession more suited to his middle-class standing, Godard pursued his interest in film, although the situation sometimes arose where he had resort to stealing money and food for survival. For a large part of the 70's, Godard was part of a revolutionary film-making team, Dziga Vertov Group, named in honor of Soviet's great...
This group discarded the auteur film-making idea and instead, began making movies in the New Wave style. They claimed that it symbolized their group's political will, although since then, Godard has reverted to fictional features in the auteur style. Godard has increasingly blended fiction and documentary film, pushing storytelling in the direction of real life exposure. In the 2004 film, 'Notre Musique', for instance, Godard places news footage regarding several wars of the previous century alongside feature war footage and the story of a young, female Israeli journalist despairing over her country's incessant warfare (Nochimson).
New Wave Crime Thriller
Among major anti-heroes belonging to the New Wave, Michel Poiccard (played by Jean-Paul Belmondo), is seen as a liar, thief, and murderer - a protagonist with behavior opposite to that of established norms. In one particular frame, just before popping into his friend's room, Michel casually, and with a free-floating, strange immorality, murders a motorcycle police officer, as he was being chased by the policeman for speeding away in a stolen vehicle. The situation hardly provides Michel the motivation to kill; the murder is made possible by mere chance - finding a pistol in the car's glove compartment. Michel is portrayed as a live-in-the-moment type of individual -- heedless of consequences, free-spirited, and an adventurer. The first impression made by Michel's 'lax' life is how dangerous it is. New Wave films, just like those from Hollywood, seem fascinated by the freedom accorded by modern culture. Unlike Hollywood, however, New Wave auteurs do not permit the viewer to be lured into acceptance of the characters' wild lives, despite their charm (Nochimson).
As improvising and working with a camera on Parisian streets (where considerably less control can be achieved as compared with studio shooting) were central to New Wave filmmaking, chance was also usually a central theme in the films' events and stories. Godard has clearly not been interested in that sort of convention. Though narrating 'Breathless' by employing a tightly-structured formula, as employed by Hollywood, would have proven to be easier, Godard places his characters as well as film-viewers in a radically uncertain state. The camerawork also mimics Patricial's and Michel's casual glances, the natural eye motion believed by Andre Bazin to be indicative of the finest cinema, as distinct from Hollywood's careful framing and shot-editing; this highlights what is important for the story (Nochimson).
The New Wave does Modern Women
Chance, freedom, cinematic reflexivity, and women, are also central themes in the 'My Life to Live' era. If perceived carefully, this can be noted not just on the page, but in the movies themselves. Karina became a New Wave symbol as the favorite actress of Godard, acting for some time against the expectations of audiences. She is shown speaking philosophically, right from Plato's ideas to the notions of 17th century philosophers, rather than soliciting men as clients (Nochimson).
"New Wave" is popular as the expression first alluded to that generation, which was born prior to the war, and entered adulthood following liberation. Being the latest generation just before the boom of birth rate, the New Wave soon found itself dethroned by the generation of baby boomers. It is, however, the very first generation that was, in its totality, understood to be a sociological phenomenon. By the ending of 1957, two media organizations - L'Express and Institut Francais d'Opinion Publique (IFOP) - which embodied the American style of modernization among the French - launched an exploratory survey together, in a bid to classify the characteristic traits of the generation of individuals born from 1927 to 1939. Francois Giroud's 1958 publication, which offered explanation of a sample representation of 15,000 letters L'Express received, provides a very evident difference between the responses of women and men to film. This prompted her to separately represent them, stating that isolating the New Wave age's women from men belonging to the same age group, was not only 'not artificial', but also necessary (Sellier).
The reflection of Giroud regarding the phenomenon observed indicates that neither L'Express' journalists, nor IFOP analysts had, in advance, considered the aptness of categorizing responses on basis of gender. This shortcoming makes IFOP's survey results unhelpful in this case. Nevertheless, it suggests a solid narrow-mindedness with regards to the significance of gender, as revealed by this survey of 15,000 L'Express letters. Francoise Giroud's letters, in fact, give evidence of young men's dominant conservatism with…
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