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European Film Movement: French New Wave

jclarke | Thursday March 21, 2013

Categories: A Level, EDUQAS A Level, EDUQAS A2, FM4, Section A: World Cinema, Analysis, Film Analysis, Film History, Cinema in Context, Film Industry, Film Distribution, Production Companies, Films & Case Studies, World Cinema, Un Bout de Souffle, Les Quatre Cents Coups, Genres & Case Studies, French New Wave, Key Concepts, Audience, Film Language, Representation

In 1950, when he was only nineteen years old, Jean-Luc Godard, one day to become one the great filmmakers, wrote a piece for the French publication Gazette du Cinema called Towards A Political Cinema. Even at this young age, Godard was aware of cinema’s power to communicate ideas.

Jean-Luc Godard examines a strip of film:

Film history describes a wide range of film movements that have each had an often-short lifespan that’s been quite specific but the legacies of which have endured.

A movement in film, or indeed any art-form, is usually centred around a collection of creatively or culturally like-minded people gathered in one place. Such groups come together usually for a relatively short timeframe and then must disband. Soviet Montage was one such movement. Another was the French New Wave, which ran from 1959 until the mid 1960s. It remains one of the most well known and highly regarded of all film movements.

1959 was the watershed year for the French New Wave, with a number of key films released that embodied the movement’s creative and cultural ambitions. Paris Nous Appartient ~ Paris Belongs to Us (Jacques Rivette, 1960), À Bout de Souffle ~ Breathless (Jean-Luc Godard, 1960), Les Cousins ~ The Cousins (Claude Chabrol, 1959) and Les Quattres Cents Coups ~ The 400 Blows (François Truffaut, 1959). Les Quattres Cents Coups won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

Francois Truffaut directing Les Quattre Cents Coups:

Rather like the Italian neorealist films of the mid- and late-1940s the French New Wave wanted to encourage French cinema explore human experience with a certain fidelity to reality that was felt to have been lacking. Alongside this creative mission, the French New Wave also challenged the assumption about film industry professionalism. The film scholar Ginette Vincendeau has commented that the “…French New Wave directors rejected traditional training more than anyone before; indeed, the authenticity of...


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