The French New wave or Le Nouvelle Vague in French Was an artistic movement which was at its peak between 1958 and 1964 but continued afterward which still has the influence of films today. In the 1950’s the idealism and political movements of the postwar gave way to more apolitical culture of consumption and leisure. The French new wave was created by two different groups of film makers. one group was a group of young men with little to no experience of film making. The second group was a group of slightly older men and woman which where referred as the left bank.
A group of film critics writing for the Cahiers du Cenema in Paris which was one of the most influential magazines in cinema. The magazine was established by Jacques Doinol-Valcrow and Andre Bazin. Andre Employed a group of young film critics the most notable names being Francis Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Eric Rohmer, Claude Chabrol and Jacques Rivet. In 1954 Francis Truffauts article was published in the magazine where he wrote about declaring a new form of cinema which then led to the producing of the movement the French new wave.
After world war II France’s film productions where in a state of disruption and change because of the transition film was going through. In the war, many French directors such as Rene Clair and Jean Renoir had to go into exile so because of this a new generation of film makers emerged the war created a gap between the classic filmmakers and younger film makers who wanted to produce films differently. Many of the Yonge people in France read film journals and attended screenings at cine-clubs and art et essai (art and experiment) cinemas. These new film makers where influenced by Cahiers du Cinema where the film critic Alexandre Astruc had been writing arguments about breaking away from “Tyranny of narrative” and instead create a new form of film. These young film critics (who were gathered by Bazin and Doniol-Valcroze) grew up watching American films after the war which were not available to watch during France was occupied by Germany. The film industry had not fully tapped the newer younger consumers and in 1958 film attendance began to decline which caused big-budget films to fail.
There are quite a few influences that the new wave critics where influenced by including film traditions and cultural influences such as films directed by John-Pierre Melville. The film Breathless (Directed by Jean-Luc Godard) shows respect and references to John-Pierre Melville one is the character Bob Montaigne who is the main character in Melville’s film Bob le Flambeur (1956) the second reference is Melville himself plays a big part in Breathless as the character who speaks the line “his ambition is to become immortal and then to die”.
The film Breathless also shows tribute to Humphrey Bogart where the main character Michel takes on film noir type poses such as the one where he is wiping his lips with his finger as well as the one where he spends a while looking upon a poster on which he then blows smoke at it.
Growing up these new filmmakers where watching American films and by watching these films new guide lines principles where formed when it came to critiquing a film.
1. The Auteur theory of film making was emphasized. It argued that the person responsible for the overall film production should be the director and how they should have complete control over all aspects on how the film should be made.
2. The camera should be an important part of the film and the light hand held cameras allowed movement around the actors in a scene so that the viewer felt included in the scene and not just an onlooker. Long tracking shots and jump cuts help to create this dynamic feel in the film.
3. Films should be made in the real world in natural settings instead of in a studio.
4. Films should be thought provoking and not just the viewer being so lost in the film that they forgot that they were watching a film. The new wave wanted to create an experience for the viewer where the viewer would think about the film that they were watching
5. Films should be about individuals who break the rules as well as the directors breaking the rules when it came to producing the film.
These guiding principles led to the rejection of traditional French cinema and instead celebrated the directors who were both French and America. Who each would have their own signature in their films. They favored directors both French and American including Jean Vigo, Robert Bresson, John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock and Fritz Lang they also had a few surprising favorite film makers such as Jerry Lewis and Rofer Corman.
The Film critics turned into filmmakers knew a lot about film history and theory but not so much about film production causing them to start off with low budget films causing them to improvise on set this created film conventions that the French new wave was known for such as Jump Cuts, shooting on location, Natural Lighting, Improvised dialogue and plotting, Direct sound recording, long shots, portable equipment and little know actors.
Films began to be made more quickly and for half of the price films would usually be shot silent and then post dubbed. And for three years new wave films made high profit which brought fame to Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jean -Claude Brily, Anna Karina, Jeanne Moreau as well as other starts. New wave films proved to be more exportable then more bigger productions.
Today these conventions are very common in films but in the 1950’s- 1960’s these conventions where groundbreaking. Jump cuts where used were use both to cover up mistakes in filming as well as fore artistic convention. Jean-Luc Godard appreciated the displaced feel that a jump cut created but today jump are used more like an important device.
The new wave principles where put into practice in Film in the 1950’s and 1960’s the film critcs from Cahiers du cinema became film directors and the films they created showed these principles in action. Le Beau Serge (1958) was directed by chabrol and is considered the first new wave film but some people consider the first new wave film to be the 400 Blows (1959) by Truffaut’s the next fil to come along in the New wave was Breathless which was directed by Godard in 1960.