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12 juin 2011 7 12 /06 /juin /2011 15:48

source : wikipedia

 

Max Linder (December 16, 1883 – October 31, 1925) was an influential French pioneer of silent film.

 

Birth and early career

Born Gabriel-Maximilien Leuvielle in Saint-Loubès, Gironde, France to a Catholic wine-growing family, he grew up with a passion for the theatre and as a young man joined a theatre troupe touring the country. While working in Paris on the theatre stage and in music halls, Leuvielle became fascinated with motion pictures and in 1905 took a job with Pathé Frères that saw him become a comedic actor, director, screenwriter, as well as a producer under the stage name, Max Linder. Linder was the younger brother of celebrated French rugby player Maurice Leuvielle (b. June 28, 1881 in Saint-Loubès).

Film

Max Linder created what was probably the first identifiable motion-picture character who appeared in successive situation comedies. Linder made more than one hundred short films portraying "Max," a wealthy and dapper man-about-town frequently in hot water because of his penchant for beautiful women and the good life. By 1911, he was directing his own films as well as writing the script, and the universality of silent films brought Linder fame and fortune throughout Europe, making him the highest paid entertainer of the day. Interestingly, he gave Maurice Chevalier his start in movies, but the silent medium did not suit Chevalier, who stuck to the stage until the all-singing all-dancing features came in, many years later.

World War I brought a temporary end to Linder's career in film. Physically unfit for combat duty, he worked as a dispatch driver during the war until he was seriously wounded. Initially, it was reported by one newspaper that he had been killed, however Linder actually phoned the offending publishers, leading them to run the headline "Max Linder Not Killed" [1]

United States

In 1916, the most popular comedian in the world was Charlie Chaplin. When Chaplin left his employer, the Essanay Film Manufacturing Company, for more money and independence, Essanay tried to replace him with Max Linder, whose pantomime skills were equally accomplished. Linder came to the United States to work for Essanay, but his first few American-made "Max" films didn't make the same impression as the Chaplin shorts. The financially troubled studio may have been counting on Linder to restore its flagging fortunes; in any case Essanay could no longer afford to sustain the series, and cancelled production of the remaining films on his contract.

Linder returned to France in 1917 but two years later made another attempt at filmmaking in Hollywood. Once more he failed to establish himself in American productions; discouraged, he went back to his homeland. After having made several hundred short films, he all but gave up on the business, appearing in only two more films during 1923 and 1924 including "Au Secours!" (Help!) for director Abel Gance.

Depression and suicide

As a consequence of his war service, Linder suffered from continuing health problems, including bouts of severe depression. In 1923, he married a 17-year old girl with whom he had a daughter named Maud Max Linder (also known as Josette).[2] The emotional problems besetting Linder evidenced themselves when he and his wife made a suicide pact. In early 1924 they attempted suicide at a hotel in Vienna, Austria. They were found and revived, the incident being covered up by the physician reporting it as an accidental overdose of barbituates. However, in Paris on October 31, 1925 Linder and his wife were successful in taking their own lives.[3] They drank Veronal, injected morphine and cut open the veins in their arms.[4] The suicide was inspired by the movie Quo Vadis.[5]

Legacy

After Max Linder's death, Chaplin dedicated one of his films: "For the unique Max, the great master - his disciple Charles Chaplin". In the ensuing years, Linder was relegated to little more than a footnote in film history until 1963 when a Max Linder compilation film titled Laugh with Max Linder was released, and in 1983 his daughter made a documentary film titled The Man in the Silk Hat. It was screened out of competition at the 1983 Cannes Film Festival.[6] In his honor, Lycée Max Linder, a public school in the city of Libourne in the Gironde département near his birthplace was given his name. Max Linder was buried at the Catholique cimetière de Saint-Loubès.

In popular media

Linder is referenced in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds where the owner of a cinema in Nazi occupied Paris in 1944, Shosanna Dreyfus, says that she will be having a Max Linder festival. The relative merits of Linder and Chaplin are then discussed by the German soldier, Frederick Zoller, who argues that Linder is superior to Chaplin while also admitting that Linder never made anything as good as The Kid.

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12 juin 2011 7 12 /06 /juin /2011 15:43

source : http://www.nytimes.com/

 

Picture of Max LinderReview/Film; Homage to Max Linder, Early French Film Comic

Cinema students who missed ''The Man in the Silk Hat'' when it was shown on Channel 13 a year ago can catch up with it at the Public Theater, where it opens today.

The film is Maud Linder's homage to the art of her father, Max Linder (1883-1925), the dapper, innovative French film comedian whose work is often cited for its influence on Chaplin and Keaton. ''The Man in the Silk Hat'' contains clips from several dozen rarely seen one-reelers made between 1906 and 1916.

In addition, there are clips from his features, including the Hollywood-made ''Three Must-Get-Theres,'' a parody of Douglas Fairbanks's ''Three Musketeers,'' photographed, with the cooperation of Fairbanks, on the sets for the original film. ''The Three Must-Get-Theres'' was also seen in Miss Linder's earlier homage, ''Max,'' shown at the Film Forum in 1980.

''The Man in the Silk Hat'' is best when it presents the clips straight, and somewhat less effective when it uses the clips as if they were illustrations of Linder's life, which was far more troubled than this film cares to acknowledge. At the age of 42, Linder died with his young wife in what has sometimes been described as a suicide pact, and sometimes as a murder-suicide, when his daughter was less than a year old.

Linder's dapper screen presence -he looks like a cross between Marcello Mastroianni and Giancarlo Giannini - and his imaginative use of the camera can be fully appreciated only when seen in the context of the time in which he worked. Most of Linder's finest work was completed by the time Chaplin and Keaton hit their strides. Though he was accepted by the Hollywood community in the early 1920's, his films were not successful at the American box office.

''The Man in the Silk Hat'' is charming as far as it goes. Linder's work has yet to be explored in relation to his life and to the films being made by others at the same time and afterward. OPERA HAT COMIQUE - THE MAN IN THE SILK HAT, written, produced, directed and narrated by Maud Linder; edited by Suzanne Baron and Pierre Gillette; music by Jean-Marie Senia; production company, Films Max Linder; a Media Home Entertainment Release; a Horizon Releasing Film; released by Kino International Corporation. At the Public, 425 Lafayette Street. Running time: 96 minutes. This film has no rating. Featuring: Max Linder

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12 juin 2011 7 12 /06 /juin /2011 14:44

source : http://www.antiwarsongs.org/

 

 

 

 - next picture

source : http://labouchedefer.free.fr/spip.php?article202

 

INDICE RAPIDO DELLE VERSIONI DISPONIBILI (94 lingue sinora)

QUICK INDEX OF VERSIONS AVAILABLE (94 Languages up to now)

 

Francese 1 – Francese 2 – Francese 3 - Italiano 1 – Italiano 2 – Italiano 3 – Italiano 4 (Internazionale di Fortini) – Italiano 5 – Italiano 6 - Italiano 7 (AreA) - Russo 1 – Russo 2 – Russo 3 - Inglese GB 1 – Inglese GB 2 – Inglese USA – Inglese Canada – Inglese Sudafrica – Inglese (Billy Bragg) – Inglese (Alistair Hulett) - Inglese (Versione letterale) - Tedesco 1 – Tedesco 2 - Tedesco 3 – Tedesco 4 - Tedesco 5 - Tedesco 6 - Tedesco 7 - Tedesco 8 - Tedesco 9 - Spagnolo 1 – Spagnolo 2 – Spagnolo 3 – Spagnolo 4 – Afrikaans – Albanese – Arabo – Armeno Occidentale – Armeno Orientale -Asturiano (Bable) 1 – Asturiano (Bable) 2 – Basco(Euskara) – Basso Tedesco (Plattdeutsch) 1 - Basso Tedesco (Plattdeutsch) 2 - Bengali - Bielorusso – Birmano 1 - Birmano 2 - Bretone 1 – Bretone 2 - Bretone 3 - Brianzolo – Bulgaro – Cantonese - Careliano 1 – Careliano 2 - Casciubo - Catalano 1 – Catalano 2 – Catalano 3 – Ceco – Ceremisso di Altura (Hill Mari) - Cernorusso (Ruteno Nero) - Chietino – Cinese 1 – Cinese (Semplificato) 2 – Cinese Pinyin – Cinese 3 - Cinese 4 - Cinese 5 - Coreano 1 – Coreano 2 – Coreano 3 – Croato – Curdo 1 – Curdo 2 - Curdo 3 - Danese 1 – Danese 2 – Danese 3 - Den Haag – Ebraico – Esperanto 1 – Esperanto 2 – Estone 1 – Estone 2 -Estone 3 - Finlandese – Frisone Occidentale 1 - Frisone Occidentale 2 - Gaelico Irlandese 1 – Gaelico Irlandese 2 - Galego (Galiziano) – Gallese (Cimrico) – Giapponese – Georgiano (Kartvelico) - Giapponese 2 - Greco – Greco (politonico) - Greco antico - Groningen – Hindi 1 - Hindi 2 - Ido 1 – Ido 2 - Indonesiano 1 – Indonesiano 2 - Islandese 1 – Islandese 2 - Kelartico - Kelartico 2 - Kirghiso – Klingon 1 – Klingon 2 - Lappone – Latino - Lettone - Lituano – Lucano – Lussemburghese - Macedone 1 - Macedone 2 - Malayalam - Malese 1 – Malese 2 - Malese 3 - Maori – Min Nan - Moldavo - Mongolo(Khalkha) - Mordvino - Neerlandese 1–Neerlandese 2 – Neerlandese 3-Neerlandese 4 –Neerlandese 5-Neerlandese 6 - Neerlandese 7 - Norvegese (Riksmål) 1 – Norvegese (Bokmål) 2 – Norvegese (Nynorsk) 3 – Occitano - Occitano (Nizzardo) - Pashtu (Afghano) - Persiano 1 – Persiano 2 - Piemontese - Polacco – Portoghese 1 – Portoghese (Brasiliano) 2 – Portoghese 3 - Portoghese 4 - Quechua (Runa Simi) – Retoromancio (Romantsch Grischun) – Romeno - Serbo 1 – Serbo 2 - Slovacco – Sloveno – Svedese – Tagalog (Filippino) 1 - Tagalog (Filippino) 2 - Tagalog (Filippino) 3 - Tagalog (Filippino) 4 - Thailandese 1 - Thailandese 2 - Turco – Tuvano – Ucraino – Udmurto (Votiaco) - Ungherese 1 – Ungherese 2 - Urdu - Veneto - Vietnamita – Yiddish – Zulu – ”Beasts of England” di G.Orwell.

 

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12 juin 2011 7 12 /06 /juin /2011 12:59

source : http://www.consulfrance-hongkong.org/

 

La première projection publique au monde d’un film est attribuée aux frères Lumière, Auguste (1862-1954) et Louis (1864-1948) . Cet événement historique se déroula à Paris, le 28 décembre 1895, et fournit l’occasion pour la première fois aux frères Lumière de démontrer les capacités du dispositif de leur invention, le "Cinématographe", qui fonctionnait comme un appareil photo, un projecteur et une tireuse tout à la fois. La présentation comprenait dix court métrages. Deux ans plus tard, en 1897, une présentation similaire fut organisée à Hong Kong au « City Hall », bâtiment de style classique sur Queen’s Road Central, conçu par l’architecte français A. Hermitte, et alors haut lieu des activités culturelles à Hong Kong. Cette première projection a marqué le début de l’histoire du cinéma français à Hong Kong. Cette présence du film français sur le territoire s’est ensuite pleinement développée après la seconde guerre mondiale, avec la création en 1953 du festival du film français, le Cinepanorama, avec la participation régulière de films français au Festival du Cinéma International de Hong Kong, et avec les nombreuses visites d’acteurs français et de directeurs de films à Hong Kong. En 2008, grâce au réseau dense des salles de cinéma de Hong Kong, le public hong kongais continue de découvrir les dernières créations cinématographiques françaises.

 

 

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11 juin 2011 6 11 /06 /juin /2011 18:52

source : http://www.cineforever.com/

 

Escrito por Redacción on ene 21st, 2011

 

 

 

El pionero Georges Méliès murió hace 73 años

 

Nació el 8 de diciembre de 1861 en el boulevard Saint-Martin de París y murió el 21 de enero de 1938. Director de teatro y actor, su padre era un conocido empresario del calzado parisino. Desde pequeño mostró interés y habilidad en el dibujo. Durante su estancia en Inglaterra, y debido a que su falta de soltura con el lenguaje le impedía comprender las obras de teatro, entró en contacto con el mundo del ilusionismo al frecuentar la “Egiptian Hall”, sala de variedades dirigida por el célebre mago Maskelyne.

Más tarde regresa a París, y a pesar de sus intenciones de ingresar en la Escuela de Bellas Artes, es obligado por su familia a participar en el negocio del calzado. Se encargó de la reparación y el perfeccionamiento tecnológico de esta industria, mostrando las habilidades mecánicas que posteriormente le resultarían tan útiles. Cuando su padre se retiró del negocio, Méliès se negó a continuar con el mismo, utilizando su parte del reparto para comprar en 1888 el teatro “Robert Houdin”, del que era asiduo visitante.

Con la incesante capacidad para el trabajo que caracterizó su vida, entre los años 1889 y 1890 simultaneó sus labores de director del teatro con las de reportero y dibujante en el periódico satírico La Griffe, donde su primo Adolphe ejercía como redactor jefe. Durante los años siguientes se escenifican en el teatro espectáculos de ilusionismo, cuyos decorados, trucos y maquinaria fueron en su mayoría creados por el propio Méliès.

Cuando el 28 de diciembre de 1895 Méliès asistió invitado por los Lumière a la primera representación del Cinematógrafo, decidió comprarles una máquina inmediatamente, pero ellos se negaron a vendérsela. Empeñado en hacerse con el invento, optó por construir su propia máquina cinematográfica. El 5 de abril de 1896 proyectó las primeras películas en su teatro Robert Houdin; eran pequeñas escenas al aire libre, documentales similares a las de los hermanos Lumière. Su estilo evolucionó rápidamente buscando crear películas parecidas a sus espectáculos de ilusionismo.

Fue pionero  en la utilización del truco de sustitución de elementos mediante el parado de la cámara, y también lo fue en la exposición múltiple del negativo (doble sobreimpresión) y los fundidos a negro y desde negro. Invirtió una gran cantidad de dinero para la creación del que se consideró el primer estudio de cine, en el que se utilizaron sistemas mecánicos para ocultar zonas al sol, trampillas y otros mecanismos de puesta en escena.

En 1902 creó la que está considerada su obra capital, Viaje a la luna. En ella la evolución de la continuidad narrativa cinematográfica da un paso de gigante, al montar la secuencia del disparo del cañón que lleva a los astrónomos a la Luna y, a continuación poner en escena un decorado con la cara animada de esta, que va creciendo en travelling inverso y sobre la que acaba aterrizando la nave/bala de cañón clavándose en ella.

Méliès intentó distribuir comercialmente Viaje a la Luna en Estados Unidos, pero técnicos que trabajaban para Thomas Alva Edison lograron hacer copias de la película y las distribuyeron por toda Norteamérica, y a pesar de que fue un éxito, Méliès nunca recibió dinero por su explotación. Creador de alrededor de quinientas películas, la paulatina transformación de la industria (monopolizada por Edison en Estados Unidos y Pathé en Francia), junto con la llegada de la Primera Guerra Mundial, afectaron a su negocio, que fue declinando sin remedio. En 1913 se retiró de todo contacto con el cine.

De 1915 a 1923, Méliès montará, con la ayuda de su familia, numerosos espectáculos en uno de sus dos estudios cinematográficos transformado en teatro. En 1923, acosado por las deudas, tuvo que vender propiedades y abandonar Montreuil. En 1925 se reencuentra con una de sus principales actrices, Jeanne d’Alcy. Ella regenta un quiosco de juguetes y golosinas en la estación de Montparnasse. Méliès se casó con ella ocupándose juntos de la tienda. Allí será reconocido más tarde por Léon Druhot, director de Ciné-Journal, que lo rescatará del olvido.

Desde 1925 su obra será redescubierta por la vanguardia cinematográfica francesa, especialmente por los surrealistas, que reivindicaron su figura hasta el punto de que Méliès fue reconocido con la Legión de Honor en 1931 por toda su trayectoria. En 1932 se encuentra en el Castillo de Orly casa de jubilación de la «Mutua del cine» (institución fundada en 1921 por Léon Brézillon, presidente del sindicato francés de productores cinematográficos) y allí vivirá el resto de sus días con su esposa Jeanne d’Alcy. Falleció en el hospital Léopold Bellan de París y sus restos descansan en el cementerio de Père-Lachaise.

Poco antes de la muerte de Méliès, en 1938, Henri Langlois, creador de la Cinemateca francesa recuperó y restauró parte de sus películas. Georges Méliès fue el gran creador del cine de espectáculo y fantasía, dando el paso hacia la creación de un lenguaje de ficción para el cine del que carecía el cinematógrafo tomavistas de los Lumière. Desde 1946 el premio Méliès otorga anualmente el reconocimiento a la mejor película francesa. (Datos extraídos de Wikipendia, la enciclopedia libre)

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25 mai 2011 3 25 /05 /mai /2011 17:15

source : http://webenhanced.lbcc.edu/

 

A trip to the moon

 

 

A TRIP TO THE MOON

Starring: Georges Melies, Victor Andre, Delpierre Farjauz-
Kelm-Brunnet.

Directed By: Georges Melies
Released By: Star (French)
Running Time: 13 minutes. Released in 1902

VIEW MOVIE CLIP1
VIEW MOVIE CLIP2

The motion-picture industry owes an immeasurable debt to French movie pioneer Georges Melies not only because he invented the science-fiction-film genre as well as countless special-effects techniques but also for the tragedy that it allowed to befall this incredible showman. A magician and newspaper cartoonist, Melies gave up both occupations in 1896 when he became fascinated with the medium that had been born only a year before. He came to it with an imagination that was unmatched by his contemporaries and turned the gimmick into a powerful narrative form. Starting with such pictures as his recreation of THE BLOWING UP OF THE MAINE IN HAVANA HARBOR (1998) and THE MAN WITH THE RUBBER HEAD (1901). Melies made the world's first science-fiction film by adapting Jules Verne's FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON and H.G. Well's FIRST MEN IN THE MOON as A TRIP TO THE MOON.

 

Fired from a huge cannon by a line of Folies-Bergere bathing beauties, a group of French scientists headed by Melies himself rides a large, hollow space bullet to the moon. The flight is brief: the projectile whizzes through the void, striking a none-too-pleased Man in the Moon square in the eye. (An alternate scene in which the lunar visage actually swallows the capsule was also filmed but discarded.) Landing in a crater, Melies and his comrades step unprotected to the habitable surface of the moon, where they watch an earthrise (remarkable reminiscent of the view seen during the Apollo Eight lunar orbit mission) and, with the coming of night, take a nap on the satellite's rocky terrain. The next morning the adventurers discover a vast cavern, within which they find bizarre flora and soil so fertile that umbrellas take root and grow! However, the most amazing sight of all is the short, lobster-like moon people called Selenities. The crustaceous beings attack the terrestrial party, and although the aggressors vaporize when struck, they are able to subdue the earthlings. The space voyagers are brought before the king of the moon. Showing little regard for the virtues of diplomacy, the Frenchmen bob the lunar tyrant and he evaporates. Hastening back to their projectile, the explorers push off from a cliff and fall back to earth, landing again rather prophetically in the Pacific Ocean.

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20 avril 2011 3 20 /04 /avril /2011 22:21

source : http://www.time.com/time/europe

 

This issue coverFrançois Truffaut

A key influence in modern cinema, his passionate filmmaking still seduces

By MARTIN SCORSESE

 

" Woman is pure, delicate, fragile," muses one of the characters in François Truffaut's Shoot the Piano Player. "Women are marvelous, women are supreme." It's easy to  imagine Truffaut himself making the same exclamations about cinema. His love affair with moving pictures was a profound and lasting one, and you can feel the intensity of it in his criticism, even in his acting. And most of all, in his films. Truffaut's passion for cinema, the desire that it stirred in him, animates every movie he ever made, every scene, every shot. He spent a very long time in the editing room with each of his pictures, and you can see it up there on the screen: each cut from one image to the next has a sense of surprise, each frame looks like it's been lovingly scrutinized.

The late '50s and early '60s was a great time in international cinema, and there were many, many films and filmmakers who had a decisive impact on me and on my friends. Michelangelo Antonioni, Akira Kurosawa, Jean-Luc Godard, Ingmar Bergman, Federico Fellini, Andrzej Wajda, Luchino Visconti, Satyajit Ray, Bernardo Bertolucci, John Cassavetes, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Claude Chabrol, Francesco Rosi: it's like an honor roll, and the mere mention of those names and the pictures they made brings an entire world, now vanished, back to life. A world of possibility. A world of passion.

And among all those names, Truffaut meant something very special. More than any of his peers, Truffaut stood for a continuity of film history. His book on Hitchcock, for instance, is indispensable to anyone interested in movies. It's also very unusual: here was one of the world's most established and celebrated filmmakers taking the time to do a very lengthy series of interviews with a much older director in the twilight of his career. It's an extraordinary act of homage, almost unthinkable today.

Truffaut carried that sense of history into his moviemaking. Back in the early and mid-'60s, people were always talking about how this movie "quoted" from that older movie, but what almost no one talked about was why the quote was there, what it did or didn't do for the movie, what it meant emotionally to the picture as a whole. In Truffaut, you could feel the awareness of film history behind the camera, but you could also see that every single choice he made was grounded in the emotional reality of the picture. There are many echoes of Hitchcock in his movies, blatantly so in The Soft Skin (underrated at the time of its release, and a favorite of mine) and The Bride Wore Black, not so blatantly in many other movies, and it's almost impossible to quantify the importance of Jean Renoir to Truffaut (or, for that matter, of Henry James, of Honoré de Balzac—Truffaut was also a great reader). But if you look at those movies carefully, you will see that there's nothing extraneous or superficial.

There are things that Truffaut did in those early movies that left a lasting impression: the opening expository section of Jules and Jim, where time and space is abolished and the images flow like music across the screen; the series of shots from Fahrenheit 451 (another underrated picture) where the camera moves in close-closer-closest on a character in imminent danger, which I admit I've duplicated many times in my own films. And the character played by Charles Aznavour in Shoot the Piano Player, who keeps almost acting but never does until it's too late, had a profound effect on me, and on many other filmmakers.

Time—the desire to slow it down coupled with the harsh reality of its swift passing ... Truffaut had a great gift for giving form to this sensation. In a way, it's all encapsulated in a moment near the end of Two English Girls—yet another underrated picture, this time a masterpiece—where Jean-Pierre Léaud's character suddenly glances at himself in the mirror and murmurs the words: "My God, I look old." And then that moment is over. That's life. And that's Truffaut.

Director Martin Scorsese is a seven-time Oscar nominee. His latest film is thriller The Departed

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10 avril 2011 7 10 /04 /avril /2011 01:50

source : http://www.greencine.com/

 

An artistic movement whose influence on film has been as profound and enduring as that of surrealism or cubism on painting, the French New Wave (or Le Nouvelle Vague) made its first splashes as a movement shot through with youthful exuberance and a brisk reinvigoration of the filmmaking process. Most agree that the French New Wave was at its peak between 1958 and 1964, but it continued to ripple on afterwards, with many of the tendencies and styles introduced by the movement still in practice today.

 

Jules et Jim 

 

Le background

Immediately after World War II, France, like most of the rest of Europe, was in a major state of flux and upheaval; in film, it was a period of great transition. During the German Occupation (1940-45), many of France's greatest directors (René Clair, Jean Renoir, Jacques Feyder among them) had gone into exile. A new generation of filmmakers emerged - but wait! This isn't the New Wave, relax, we're not there yet - and chief among these was René Clément, who had co-directed the classic surrealist fairy tale Beauty and the Beast with playwright Jean Cocteau, and then in the 1950s, furthered his reputation with Forbidden Games. After the traumatic experience of war, a generation gap of sorts emerged between the more "old school" French classic filmmakers and a younger generation who set out to do things differently.

In the 50s, a collective of intellectual French film critics, led by André Bazin and Jacques Donial-Valcroze, formed the groundbreaking journal of film criticism Cahiers du Cinema. They, in turn, had been influenced by the writings of French film critic Alexandre Astruc, who had argued for breaking away from the "tyranny of narrative" in favor of a new form of film (and sound) language. The Cahierscritics gathered by Bazin and Doniol-Valcroze were all young cinephiles who had grown up in the post-war years watching mostly great American films that had not been available in France during the Occupation.

Cahiers had two guiding principles:
1) A rejection of classical montage-style filmmaking (favored by studios up to that time) in favor of: mise-en-scene, or, literally, "placing in the scene" (favoring the reality of what is filmed over manipulation via editing), the long take, and deep composition; and
2) A conviction that the best films are a personal artistic expression and should bear a stamp of personal authorship, much as great works of literature bear the stamp of the writer. This latter tenet would be dubbed by American film critic Andrew Sarris the "auteur (author) theory."

This philosophy, not surprisingly, led to the rejection of more traditional French commercial cinema (Clair, Clement, Henri-Georges Clouzout, Marc Allegret, among others), and instead embraced directors - both French and American - whose personal signature could be read in their films. The French directors the Cahiers critics endorsed included Jean Vigo, Renoir, Robert Bresson and Marcel Ophüls; while the Americans on their list of favorites included John Ford, Howard Hawks, Alfred Hitchcock, Fritz Lang, Nicholas Ray and Orson Welles, indisputed masters, all. There were also a few surprising, even head-scratching favorites, including Jerry Lewis (thus beginning the stereotype about France's Lewis obsession) and Roger Corman.

Many of the French New Wave's favorite conventions actually sprang not only from artistic tenets but from necessity and circumstance. These critics-turned-filmmakers knew a great deal about film history and theory but a lot less about film production. In addition, they were, especially at the start, working on low budgets. Thus, they often improvised with what schedules and materials they could afford. Out of all this came a group of conventions that were consistently used in the majority of French New Wave films (similar to, but less encapsulated than, Denmark's Dogme 95 "manifesto"), including:

  • Jump cuts: a non-naturalistic edit, usually a section of a continuous shot that is removed unexpectedly, illogically
  • Shooting on location
  • Natural lighting
  • Improvised dialogue and plotting
  • Direct sound recording
  • Long takes

    Many of these conventions are commonplace today, but back in the late 1950s and early 1960s, this was all very groundbreaking. Jump cuts were used as much to cover mistakes as they were an artistic convention. Jean-Luc Godardcertainly appreciated the dislocating feel a jump cut conveyed, but let's remember - here was a film critic-turned-first-time director who was also using inexperienced actors and crew, and shooting, at least at first, on a shoestring budget. Therefore, as Nixon once said, mistakes were made. Today when jump cuts are used they even feel more like a pretentious artifice.

    Many will argue (and rather pointlessly when it comes down to it) which film was the first of the French New Wave; officially, the first work out of this group wasn't a feature at all, but rather, short films produced in 1956 and 57, including Jacques Rivette's Le coup du berger (Fool's Mate) and François Truffaut's Les Mistons (The Mischief Makers). Some point to Claude Chabrol's Le beau Serge (1958) as the first feature success of the New Wave. He shot the low budget film on location and used the money raised from its release to make Les cousins; with its depiction of two student cousins, one good, one bad, it's the first Chabrol film to contain his uniquely sardonic view of the world. Les cousinsis particularly interesting when looking at the typical qualities of early French New Wave works, because of its long, memorable party sequence which climaxes in a very cruel joke.

    The Wave Breaks: Truffaut

    But it was in 1959 that the wave really broke: that year featured three seminal films, and with them, three major filmmakers would emerge. In 1959, a Cahiers critic so acerbic he'd been banned the year before from the Cannes Film Festival, returned as a director, bringing with him a film that would stun the world. That film, François Truffaut's first feature, was Les quatre cents coups, or The 400 Blows.

    The 400 Blows

    It would be the first of many semi-autobiographical films Truffaut would make with actor Jean-Pierre Léaud (who bore a fairly close resemblance to the director) playing Antoine Doinel. The 400 Blows was a stunningly unsentimental (especially compared to Truffaut's last few films) but poetic account of a teenage delinquent who runs away from home rather than deal with his uncaring parents and teacher, only to find life on the streets a rough challenge. The film masterfully tells the story from Doinel's point of view, but doesn't flinch away from the raw emotions of the situations, and has surely been an influence on films as distinct as Raising Victor Vargas and Trans. The final shot is one of the most unforgettable in all of modern cinema. Truffaut's next two films in the Doinel saga would be the short featurette Antoine et Collette and the charming Stolen Kisses, which is a fairly episodic but beautifuly observed romantic comedy; in that film, Truffaut depicts Paris in the way that Woody Allen does New York, as a beautiful and whimsical place. Interesting, too, how Stolen Kisseswas released in 1968, the same year that the student protest movements were rocking France and the world, while the film remains deceptively serene. The anxiety seems to lie just beneath the surface.

    Truffaut's follow-up film, Shoot the Piano Player, was a box-office dud upon initial release but was given a critical reappraisal soon after. An offbeat crime film that was quiet, romantic, personal and audacious, people weren't sure what to make of it at the time, but its cinematic literacy and cheekiness would inspire future filmmakers (the pulp fiction origins of the story and the inept crooks surely must have inspired Tarantino, among others). The Ray Bradbury adaption Fahrenheit 451 was another underrated film, likely because at the time many people were treating it more like straight science fiction than as a parable, a world not too different than our own. It's a surprisingly moving, rich film that deserves a fresh look. Much of Truffaut's later work seemed to fall into more sentimental or maudlin territory, but there are the occasional gems - Day for Night, his playful ode to filmmaking, chief among them.

    Godard

    Far more politically engaged than Truffaut was Jean-Luc Godard; in fact, the two were known to have been mutually disaffected with each other. Arguably, Godard, for whatever his inconsistencies, is the one who might ultimately have been the most influential and remembered. His Breathless (A bout de souffle), which was remadeweakly in America in 1983, is still probably the most often cited film when the topic shifts to the French New Wave, and for good reason: it's a kinetic joy, full of jump cuts, lavish Paris location shooting, with cool jazz on the soundtrack, a noirish mood, and a lovely, literate romance, all adding up to one for the ages. Interestingly, the film is based on a story by Truffaut, the only time the two would come close to collaborating on anything.

    Breathless

    Godard was the most prolific of all the major figures of this movement; he produced roughly two films a year in the 1960s, and amazingly, many of them still hold up today. In Le Petit Soldat and Pierrot le Fou in particular, Godard gave us his protoypical male characters, men who were full of self-doubt; the politics in the former seem a little more naive than what you'd find in Godard's later, more overtly politicized work, while the latter is essentially a mishmosh of every genre the New Wave seemed to have an interest in deconstructing (gangster, romance, musical) while ultimately ending up in tragedy-land. My favorite Godard film is A Band of Outsiders (A band aparte) which has an innate sense of playfulness at work as Godard very loosely adapts a book noir and (his wife at the time) Anna Karina at her most lovely (and naive). It features a memorable pantomime dance with Karina, Claude Brasseur and Sami Frey (who played, in Godard's own words, "the little suburban cousins of [Jean-Paul] Belmondo" in Breathless), and an overall sense of joie de vivrenot seen in some of Godard's other films.

    Alphaville, Godard's homage to both science-fiction and American detective stories, is a fascinating, if slightly alienating, production; Godard's frequent collaborator, cameraman Raoul Coutard, shot modern-day Paris as a "dehumanized city of the future." It's one of Godard's more even-keeled and sustained films and an interesting parable about the alienating role technology plays in our lives.

    In fitting with the upheavals of the era, Godard became more overtly politicized in the late 60s and formed a film collective called the Dziga Vertov Group (named after the great Russian filmmaker). His films then started to become increasingly inaccessible (not that he was ever striving for mainstream success, mind you). In that period, he produced a number of shorts outlining his politics, traveled extensively and shot a number of films, most of which remained unfinished or were refused showings. One notable exception is the fascinating, but disturbing Weekend, which contains one of the chillingly great set-pieces in all of cinema, a ten-minute tracking shot of the world's largest traffic jam as well as a cutting portrayal of the bourgeoisie. As Amy Taubin recently wrote in the Village Voice, Weekendis "kinetic and cruel... the film in which Godard really sticks it to narrative. Not only is it devoid of a single character anyone could care about, the fact that I've given away the ending doesn't matter a jot."

    Godard the experimenting Marxist will still occasionally turn out interesting works, but they give the appearance of someone who seems to have gone off the deep end or lost touch with reality as most of us know it in his attempts to show his own. But this is Godard - simultaneously exasperating and brilliant, self-important and important. "I've always chosen to do what others aren't doing," he said in a 2001 interview with the BBC. "No one does that, so it remains to be done, let's try it. If it's already being done, there's no point in me doing it as well." And so it goes. And on goes his legacy, too.

    Resnais

    The last of the three seminal initial films of the French New Wave released in 1959 is Alain Resnais's Hiroshima, Mon Amour, probably the most inventive of all early New Wave works in terms of structure. Resnais's remarkable film unfurls not unlike a poem, an elliptical tracing of memory lost and time regained, the chronology of which makes Memento look straightforward. What separates this work from most of the other French New Wave classics is its strong screenplay (by novelist Marguerite Duras) - whereas many of the other films relied at least in part on improvisation and less on a collaborative process with a separate writer. Resnais is actually a generation older than the Cahiers kids and, if he was "traditional" in any way, it was that he was more inclined to work from an original script than other members of the New Wave. But he was also equally interested in Henri Bergson and the avant-garde and first found acclaim at the height of the New Wave. His Last Year at Marienbadis a complete puzzle (written by Alain Robbe-Grillet), also scrambling the way time unfolds, rendering past, present and future basically meaningless. It's unsettling, to say the least, and either one of the most important films of the period, or pretentious nonsense, depending on your mood. I vote for both.

    Rohmer, Chabrol, and the rest of le gang

    Eric Rohmer was the editor of the Cahiers du Cinema when he tried his hand at feature filmmaking. He shot his first full-length film, The Sign of Leo (which sadly is not available on DVD at this time), in 1959 at the age of 40 with a bit of financial support from the Cahiers crowd. The gloomy tale of a man who believes he's coming into a great inheritance only to wind up homeless and destitute did not fly well with audiences. They would eventually come around to him, though, abandon him and return again. What distinguishes Rohmer from the other New Wave directors, as Jean-Marie Maurice Scherer has pointed out in Senses of Cinema, is that "there is rarely any high drama in his work... He has no cops and robbers, no killers or pimps or thwarted lovers. Even his adulterer in L'Amour l'apres-midi (Chloe in the Afternoon/Love in the Afternoon, 1972) doesn't actually commit adultery - he barely even kisses the woman who tempts him."

    That said, if, as with Resnais and Godard, Rohmer's approach to filmmaking is primarily intellectual, he paints a far more naturalistic and often more sensual canvas. Though each film stands on its own, he's often conceived of them as parts of cycles: Six Moral Tales, Comedies and Proverbs and Tales of the Four Seasons. "In the Rohmer oeuvre," Andrew Sarris wrote a few years ago, "there are no two or three masterpieces that tower over the rest of his efforts. His films, like the novels of Honore de Balzac or Anthony Trollope, are a continuous stream of narrative art with crests and shallows here and there, but no dry gulches anywhere."

    Les Biches

    Truffaut would famously pay homage to one of his auteur idols when he conducted a book-length interview with Alfred Hitchcock, but it was Chabrol whose work would be most often compared to Hitchcock (and he, too, wrote a book, with Eric Rohmer, on Hitch, which is now called Hitchcock: The First 45 Years). The comparison isn't entirely fair. Chabrol's work has focused more on smaller-scale crimes of passion within the framework of a family or community. But there's no doubt for anyone who has seen one of Chabrol's suspense films that he owes a debt to Hitchcock in terms of both genre and style (compare the closing tracking shot of La femme infidele with that of Vertigo, for instance). Chabrol's early work Les Bonnes Femmes (1960) is a perfect example of his carefully crafted filmmaking style, much more so than would be found in some of the early work of his compatriots. Like Godard, Chabrol, in Les bonnes femmes, wittily attacks bourgeois aspirations, but like Hitchcock, he was also fascinated by guilt and obsession, and entirely unsentimental about it. Yet there's a hint of compassion here that keeps the whole from feeling distant.

    About the only woman to be included in this male-dominated group is Agnés Varda, whose husband, Jacques Demy was also a renowned film director in his own right. Varda's most important contribution to the movement is generally considered to be her second film, Cleo from Five to Seven (although those who have seen her first, La Pointe-Courte, from 1955, have raved about it and consider it to be a crucial early work in the New Wave). Cleo took place in real time, tracking the course of two hours (actually 90 minutes) in a day in the life of a pop singer who is waiting to find out whether or not she has cancer. She wanders the streets, meets a soldier, finds renewed reason for hope. The film still holds up today, with a grace to its photography and a joyful humanity in its characterizations. Varda's follow-up works wouldn't quite match Cleo, (although her bold yet poetic Vagabond is worth checking out, mostly for Sandrine Bonnaire's performance) but more recent forays into documentary film have proved quite interesting, most recently with The Gleaners and I. She also made a personal documentary about her late husband's childhood, Jacquot de Nantes, which is a lovely, lyrical tribute.

    Cleo from Five to Seven

    Demy is still most famous for Umbrellas of Cherbourg and The Young Girls of Rochefort, homages to the Hollywood musical. Although arguably not part of the New Wave himself because his films of the era were seemingly lighthearted and fluffy, I'd argue that his tips of the hat to the musical are no less engaging than Godard's or Truffaut's to the gangster film, and that he deserves a place in this canon.

    Sadly, very little of Louis Malle's New Wave work from the 60s is on DVD; we have only Spirits of the Dead, a compilation for which Malle contributed one of the three films, and this is hardly the best example of his work. His first film, Ascenseur pour l'Echefaud (Elevator to the Gallows) was a distinctly moody suspense story in the best American tradition held together by a hypnotic score by cool American jazz musician Miles Davis. Probably Malle's most decidedly New Wave contribution was the unforgettable Zazie dans le Metro, which features many of the movement's favorite conventions - jump cuts, in-jokes and a jarring narrative jumble. A precocious and shockingly (and hilariously) lewd teenage girl named Zazie moves into her drag queen uncle's flat and it all becomes something you might imagine if you combined Madeline with John Waters and pureed with a pint of the French New Wave. The film's often frenetic, comic editing might have influenced Richard Lester (Hard Day's Night, The Knack). Although he had been criticized by some film critics for not being distinctive enough as an auteur, because he tended to lose himself in projects, because his work dared to show range, Malle remained an important director through his later years - most notably with masterful dramas like Au Revoir les enfants and Atlantic City.

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source : http://uwpress.wisc.edu/

 

Richard Neupert
Wisconsin Studies in Film

  

From the introduction

 

"Despite their differences, these films share connections, a common essence which is nothing less than their notion of mise-en-scène, or a filmic écriture, based on shared principles. Just as one recognizes the vintage of a great wine by its body, color, and scent, one recognizes a nouvelle vague film by its style."—Claire Clouzot, Le cinéma français

 "The New Wave was a freedom of expression, a new fashion of acting, and a great reform on the level of make-up. I was part of a new generation that refused to wear the two inches of pancake base paint and hair pieces that were still standard equipment for actors. Suddenly, you saw actors who looked natural, like they had just gotten out of bed."

 —Françoise Brion, in La nouvelle vague

 

 

"The French New Wave is one of the most significant film movements in the history of the cinema. During the late 1950s and early 1960s, the New Wave rejuvenated France's already prestigious cinema and energized the international art cinema as well as film criticism and theory, reminding many contemporary observers of Italian neorealism's impact right after World War II. The New Wave dramatically changed filmmaking inside and outside France by encouraging new styles, themes, and modes of production throughout the world. Suddenly, there were scores of new, young twenty- and thirty-something directors, such as Louis Malle, François Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, and Claude Chabrol, delivering film after film while launching a new generation of stars, including Jeanne Moreau, Jean-Claude Brialy, and Jean-Paul Belmondo. As a result of new production norms and a cluster of young producers anxious to participate in this burst of filmmaking, roughly 120 first-time French directors were able to shoot feature-length motion pictures between the years 1958 and 1964. Moreover, many of those young directors made several films during those years—Jean-Luc Godard alone released eight features in four years-so the total number of New Wave films is truly staggering. The New Wave taught an entire generation to experiment with the rules of storytelling, but also to rethink conventional film budgets and production norms. A whole new array of options for film aesthetics was born, often combined with tactics from the past that were dusted off and reinvigorated alongside them. Thanks in part to a renewed interest in the New Wave in France on its fortieth anniversary, increased attention has recently been directed at this movement from a wide range of critics and historians, including prominent figures in French film scholarship like Michel Marie, Jean Douchet, and Antoine de Baecque. The French film journal Cahiers du cinéma also organized a special issue devoted to the nouvelle vague.

 

But given the depth, significance, and variety of the New Wave, much about the movement is still left unexamined. Large survey histories necessarily condense this era and its major figures into simple summaries, while texts devoted to the French cinema or to the New Wave in particular, such as James Monaco's The New Wave, Roy Armes's French Cinema, and Alan Williams's Republic of Images, offer quite different perspectives on the New Wave, though they all end up privileging the directors who had begun as critics for Cahiers du cinéma before shooting their first features. For Monaco, the New Wave really amounts to François Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Claude Chabrol, Eric Rohmer, and Jacques Rivette, and he is unconcerned with defining the movement or its dates. Armes divides New Wave­era France into clusters of renewals coming from various new groups of directors. For him, however, New Wave directors have to come directly from criticism; hence he, too, regards the Cahiers du cinéma filmmakers as the only pure members. Armes avoids explaining the New Wave as a historical or critical term. Williams does a more complete job, especially for a large survey history, establishing some key influences and classifying the most important directors as the "reformists," including Malle, Chabrol, and Truffaut, in contrast to more marginal directors, like Rohmer, or radical directors, such as Godard.

 

All these sources help round out a sense of the significance of new directors, themes, and production techniques, but they generally fail to grant adequate space to the cultural context of 1950s France, the history of Cahiers du cinéma's participation, or the resulting films' unusual narrative tactics. Readers are often left without a clear understanding of just what made the New Wave so exciting and challenging to international audiences at the time. The New Wave's "newness" has too often been reduced to a tidy list of representative traits culled from a few canonical films and directors. By contrast, this study lends more depth and breadth to the era while remaining focused on the Cahiers directors as exemplary representatives of New Wave filmmaking.

 

Since every reader will come to this book with overlapping but slightly different perceptions of the New Wave, it is valuable here to lay down a concise working definition of the term, its participants, and its results. While the French film industry had always been much more open to individual producers and writer-directors than were most national cinemas, by the middle 1950s there was a general perception, both in the industry and in the popular press, that French film was losing its direction, bogged down as it was in generic historical reconstructions and uninspired literary adaptations. Individual stylists like Jacques Tati and Robert Bresson were becoming more and more rare. Yet, while the so-called tradition of quality of post­World War II French cinema was earning steady profits with movies like Autant-Lara's Le rouge et le noir (The Red and the Black, 1954), those traditional films seemed further and further isolated from contemporary life during a time when ciné-clubs and new film journals were looking for an exciting modern cinema. Claude Autant-Lara (b. 1901) and his generation of aging leftists became scapegoats of the new young cinephiles and critics like François Truffaut. French cinema was said to be in desperate need of a new direction.

 

France's cinematic revival came at first from a handful of young directors who found novel ways to fund and shoot their movies, often in direct defiance of commercial and narrative norms. Influenced as much by Jean Renoir of the 1930s, Italian neorealism of the 1940s, and selected Hollywood directors of the 1950s, young directors like Louis Malle, Claude Chabrol, and François Truffaut began to make movies that avoided some of the dominant constraints. They used their own production money or found unconventional producers to make low-budget films set within the milieus they knew best: contemporary France of contemporary middleclass youths. To shoot inexpensively, they followed the lead of the neorealists, shooting primarily on location, using new or lesser-known actors and small production crews. Filming on the streets where they lived or in the apartments where they grew up and without stars or huge professional crews, these directors managed to turn financial shortcomings to their advantage.

 

Admittedly amateurish on some levels, their tales looked honest and urgent, in contrast to costume dramas set in Stendhal's France. The rule of thumb was to shoot as quickly as possible with portable equipment, sacrificing the control and glamour of mainstream productions for a lively, modern look and sound that owed more to documentary and television shooting methods than to mainstream, commercial cinema. For these filmmakers, glamorous three-point lighting, smooth crane shots, and classically mixed soundtrackswere not only out of reach, they were the arsenal of a bloated, doomed cinema. As more producers and writer-directors saw that inexpensive movies not only could be made but also could earn a profit and good critical reviews, the number of first-time feature filmmakers exploded. Suddenly in 1959 and 1960 there were more movies in production by small-time producers and optimistic though untested directors than at any time in the history of the sound cinema. The renewal was now called a wave.

 

New Wave stories tended to be loosely organized around rather complex, spontaneous young characters. Importantly, unpolished, sometimes disjointed film styles fit these rather chaotic, good-humored tales of youths wandering through contemporary France. Most historians point to 1959 as

 

the first full year of the nouvelle vague—that is the year when the term was first applied to films by Truffaut, Chabrol, and Alain Resnais in particular—and its ending is considered to be anywhere from 1963, the year when the number of new directors declined dramatically, to 1968, the year of the May rebellions. Some critics, however, localize the New Wave so

 

much in specific auteurs that every film ever shot by people like Rohmer, Truffaut, or Godard counts as nouvelle vague: once a "waver" always a "waver," according to some spectators and historians. For reasons that will become clear, this study prefers to summarize the New Wave as a complex

 

network of historical forces, including all films made by young directors exploiting new modes of production as well as unusual story and style options. The New Wave per se lasts from 1958 through 1964. The New Wave era is just that, a time period during which social, technological, economic, and cinematic factors helped generate one of the most intensely

 

creative movements in film history. The New Wave involves more than directors and movie titles; it comprises a whole new interpretation of the cinema and its narrative strategies.

 

To a certain extent, the unfortunate condensation and canonization of the New Wave into a list of directors began with Cahiers du cinéma, itself one of the key historians of the movement, which devoted an entire issue to the nouvelle vague in December 1962. That issue, organized by Jacques

 

Doniol-Valcroze with strong participation from François Truffaut, became a model for how the New Wave has subsequently been described, defined, and summarized. The first sixty pages are devoted to three twenty-page interviews with Claude Chabrol, Jean-Luc Godard, and François Truffaut;

 

the next twenty-five pages are filled with short encyclopedic entries about "162 New French Filmmakers," typically including a list of their short and long films, one or two paragraphs summing up their contributions, and a snapshot of the director, when available. The final fifteen pages present an

 

interesting roundtable discussion of the industrial climate for French cinema and the hurdles that continued to challenge New Wave production practices and box-office successes.

 

That Cahiers du cinéma should declare that the New Wave involved 162 new filmmakers working in France but devote the bulk of their 1962 special issue to three directors establishes two important trends that will unfortunately persist in most historical summaries of the New Wave. First, while the importance of the Wave lies in its vast size, with scores of firsttime directors suddenly getting to make feature films, the most significant participants are really assumed to be the Cahiers critics-turned-directors, especially Chabrol, Godard, and Truffaut. Second, the New Wave is presented as a collection of people rather than of films or socioeconomic conditions. The Cahiers special issue is arranged, not around a chronology of the jeune cinéma, but around the words and faces of young auteurs. The New Wave becomes a list of directors, although even Cahiers leaves it unclear whether all of these 162 are nouvelle vague or just new and worth noting.

 

The Cahiers list is particularly weak as a defining tally since some of the 162 directors collected in the Cahiers chronicle had begun their careers earlier (Pierre-Domique Gaisseau's first feature was in 1950, Claude Barma's in 1951). Several of the directors, such as Edgar Morin, worked exclusively in documentary, and others on the list, including Michel Fermaud

 

and Henri Torrent, had only so far been codirectors. Noel Burch was included for having written a scenario and serving as assistant on several films; he had not yet directed a feature. And while novelist Jean Giono had just shot his first film, Crésus, in 1960, he was hardly young; Giono was born in 1895. Cahiers also included the "spiritual fathers" of the New

 

Wave, Roger Leenhardt and Jean-Pierre Melville, who both shot their first features in 1947. Further, the brief summaries for a number of the directors, including Serge Bourguignon (whose Cybèle ou les dimanches de Ville-d'Avary [Sundays and Cybèle, 1962] went on to win the Academy Award for best foreign film) were quite hostile. Similarly, they dismiss

 

Henri Fabiani's Le bonheur est pour demain (Happiness Comes Tomorrow, 1960) as an artificial film that looks as if it were made by a sixteen-year old who had misunderstood Soviet montage! Bourguignon and Fabiani are not alone; Cahiers dismisses several directors as immature, simplistic, and even embarrassing during this time of aesthetic upheaval and renewal.

 

Thus, while on the surface Cahiers seems to be championing 162 new directors, its list is hardly an endorsement of all that is youthful in French cinema. For Cahiers du cinéma, nouvelle vague possesses connotations of originality and critical value; new directors have the potential to make it into the New Wave camp, but few are actually accorded the label. The Cahiers chronicle is very helpful in providing one subjective compilation

 

of people involved in making feature films during this era, but it obviously has shortcomings. Interestingly, this encyclopedic tally includes only three women, Agnès Varda, Paula Delsol (La dérive [The Drift], 1962), and television writer Francine Premysler, herself a codirector (La memoirecourte [Short Memory], 1962). The Cahiers assumption that only directors

 

are worth listing inevitably excludes women by minimizing the effects that the wide range of producers, editors, actors, art directors, writers, cinematographers, and composers had on the amazing look, sound, and feel of these youthful films. Subsequent historians in turn often just fiddle with adapting their own list of most pertinent directors rather than provide a

 

more complex picture of the diverse individuals who helped construct the New Wave cinema.

 

In contrast, I am particularly interested in a historical poetic approach that reexamines how the New Wave has been variously defined by and for film studies and what nouvelle vague really means today. Hence, I test exactly how the original films were made and received. My initial assumption, however, is that the New Wave is more than a list of people. It is a marketing term, as Chabrol notes, and also an "artistic school," as defined by Michel Marie. But in addition, it comprises changes in economic, social, and technological norms within France in the late 1950s and early 1960s, as well as the narrative contributions from all those new directors

 

making their first feature films in France during these few years, especially 1958­1964. It should also include all the creative personnel who helped make those hundreds of films. Acknowledging the "nouvelle vague spectator" is also a helpful concept since a specific international audience helped ensure that a trickle of new French films led into a mighty wave.

 

But as I point out in chapter 1, nouvelle vague was initially a blanket term for fundamental social changes that defined an entire post­World War II generation, fifteen to thirty-five years old, who saw themselves as culturally distinct from their parents' generation. By the time of the first New Wave movies, the term "nouvelle vague" was already being applied to everything from juvenile attitudes to a style of living, including wearing black leather jackets and riding noisy motor scooters around Paris. Defining this generation became a national pastime: between 1955 and 1960 at least thirty different national surveys tried to determine "who is French youth today?" Eventually, nouvelle vague was a label that spun out of control in general social use in France; today in film studies it is a fairly coherent term, though various attempts at pinpointing definitive beginning and end dates and comprehensive lists of traits and participants still generate a wide range of competing opinions.

 

One important, permeating critical opinion that helped motivate the rise of an alternative, New Wave cinema in the 1950s was the broadly accepted notion that post­World War II French cinema was in a stagnant condition and needed a dramatic overhaul. Pierre Billard, head of the French association of ciné-clubs and editor for Cinéma, wrote a representative editorial in February 1958, titled "Forty under Forty," which complained about the state of French cinema. He pinned the nation's hopes on forty young directors who were on the rise, including Louis Malle. Billard's editorial lamented that the economic prosperity of top French box-office successes seemed to come at the expense of artistic value: "The depletion of inspiration, sterilization of subject matter, and static aesthetic conditions are hard to deny; the rare exceptions . . . in terms of form and subjects are coming from the periphery of French production. . . . The future of French film progress rests with young directors." Billard's complaints were echoed in many other sources beyond Cinéma and Cahiers du cinéma. The industry's weaknesses were perceived to be deeply rooted in its structure, not simply in a cautious, aging body of directors.

 

Even the professional organizations and unions began to draw criticism for being overly protective and hierarchical, posing rigid barriers against easy entry into film production. Popular discourse regularly referred to the film industry as a "fortress," a term that evoked patriotic hopes of storming this contemporary Bastille, overthrowing the current regime, and radically dismantling the unfair conditions for participation. Producers were singled out regularly in the press as lacking taste, vision, and daring. Mainstream producers were condemned for relying upon safe big-budget adaptations of historical novels, in lukewarm compromises between 1940s French style and uninspired, run-of-the-mill Hollywood productions. The label "tradition of quality" had initially been the catch phrase of the Centre national de la cinématographie (CNC) in the days immediately after the war. The CNC and the Minister of Culture were trying to foster a stronger French film industry modeled on British and American classical style, but featuring French themes, historical events, and great literature. But by the middle of the 1950s, angry young critics were using the term "tradition of quality" to deride mainstream output. The phrase now connoted old-fashioned costume epics out of touch with modern life.

 

Among the few high points in French cinema regularly cited by increasingly impatient critics were individual stylists like Robert Bresson and Jacques Tati, both of whom had trouble finding consistent funding for their films. Another area of hope was the production of daring short films, including documentaries like Alain Resnais's Nuit et brouillard (Night and Fog, 1955). That the best directors were in financial trouble, while most innovative young directors, experimenting with form and subject matter, were isolated in the marginal field of short films, was often cited as evidence that French cinema was surely headed in the wrong direction. Moreover, French films were winning fewer and fewer international awards, in contrast to the regained prestige among the Italians. The commercial French cinema was regularly condemned in the popular press as teetering, gasping, and even suffering from hardening of the arteries. Throughout the world, cinema was seen as an important cultural barometer, and it was not lost on the French that, while Japan and Italy were earning greater respect each year, France was floundering. As historian Françoise Audé notes of this era, the connections between a rigid cinematic structure and the fixed social structures behind it were becoming obvious to everyone: "Within an apparently frozen society the cinema is inert." Michel Marie sums up the situation most concisely, adopting language right out of the 1950s debates: "Aesthetic sclerosis and a solid economic health-this was the condition of French cinema on the eve of the New Wave's explosion."

 

Understanding this general sentiment of a French cinema that had lost its cultural significance and artistic edge helps one appreciate that the arrival of what would be announced as a "wave" of new young directors really was an exciting change and even a victory for journalists and film buffs. Already in January 1959, before the label nouvelle vague was even being applied to the cinema, the official publication of the CNC, Le Film français, was ecstatic to report that 1958 had seen a sudden spike in the number of features by first-time directors. They cited films just finished or in production by Louis Malle, Michel Deville, Pierre Kast, François Truffaut, Claude Chabrol, and others. More importantly, they foresaw the slate of new features continuing to grow in the new year: "The year 1959 promises the arrival of many new directors. We wish them success and hope they can return the heartfelt youthful vigor our cinema seems to have lately abandoned, but that not long ago permitted our number one ranking in the world. However, it is not by stirring the mud that one makes it go away. Better to ignore it." When Le Film rançais, the voice for the entire French film industry, suggests that current mainstream productions are equivalent to hearts that have stopped beating and mud that is tainting everything it touches, changes in the cinema take on urgent importance. This sort of public scolding of the status quo was highly unusual, and some even considered it unpatriotic. Le Film français, Cinéma 58, and Cahiers du cinéma were hardly alone in condemning current practice, however, and they, along with daily newspapers and even the Minister of Culture, helped set the stage to welcome newcomers with open arms. The result of all the complaining was to prepare an environment in which change, whether radical or restrained, would be supported and encouraged. New talent came on the scene with a sense of confidence and purpose, trying to deliver the new stories and styles that might save the French cinema from oldfashioned complacency.

 

But it was more than the critical atmosphere and a shift in taste from carefully crafted historical dramas that helped pave the way for the New Wave. New technological and economic factors as well rewarded fresh ideas and productions. Thus, while this study remains focused on the growth of the New Wave into a strong and varied force, it devotes as much attention to specific generating mechanisms within French culture as to the creative individual auteurs who took advantage of the changing conditions. For instance, while every history of the New Wave, no matter how concise, credits François Truffaut's Les 400 coups (The 400 Blows, 1959) with helping launch the movement, that film's history should not be limited to Truffaut's personal style, based on his critical past and cinéphilia. Although Truffaut's best director award and huge financial success at the Cannes Film Festival in 1959 accelerated the New Wave's growth, the fact that the French franc had lost 20 percent of its value the previous month had an equally important impact. Thus, the international success of French films in 1959 and 1960 was sped along by a better exchange rate for foreign distributors, who could now get an excellent deal on already cheap movies. Small operators like Irvin Shapiro of Films Around the World could subsequently afford the American rights to movies like Godard's Breathless. France has always had a strong influx of young individual stylists entering its filmmaking ranks; what makes the New Wave era so special is not so much the rare quality of some of these newcomers but rather the conditions that allowed so many untried people to get a chance at directing feature films within such a short amount of time. The reason that a "wave" rather than simply a new cohort of directors came upon the scene around 1960 is not just a matter of strong personalities. It is the result of an unusual set of circumstances that enabled a dynamic group of young directors to exploit a wide range of conditions that opened up incredible opportunities for inexpensive filmmaking in Paris. Beyond the historical, social, economic, and technological contexts that affected these marvelous movies, I am ultimately concerned with the resulting narrative innovations. French theater and literature were already changing dramatically during the 1950s, and their shifts away from pre­World War II concerns toward more modern, often theoretically influenced modes of presentation strongly affected the personnel as well as the audiences of nouvelle vague films. Increasingly, narrative experimentation was combined with a renewed interest in telling stories for a younger generation or at least from their perspective. New, sexier themes and actors showed up in important films in the 1950s, such as Roger Vadim's color spectacle, Et Dieu créa la femme (And God Created Woman, 1956), which featured a daring new representative of amoral female sexuality, Brigitte Bardot. Yet there were also very challenging intellectual movies like Marcel Hanoun's 16 mm Une histoire simple (A Simple Story, 1958), which concerned a single mother fallen on hard times and was supposedly produced for less than one thousand dollars. The 1950s were rich in storytelling alternatives, some of which were much more influential than others on the core of young directors who would become known as the New Wave filmmakers.

 

The overall sample of New Wave directors featured in this study is necessarily narrower than the scores of directors who could be said to fit the movement. But I have chosen to concentrate on the rise of the New Wave and examine social forces and influential trends in film criticism as well as the practical influence of exemplary production models provided by Alexandre Astruc, Jean-Pierre Melville, and Agnès Varda. In that way I flesh out rather than remake the canonical list of significant precursors. I then turn to Roger Vadim and Louis Malle, two directors who provide essential narrative and production blueprints for subsequent young directors to copy, revise, or reject. Finally, I take up the core Cahiers du cinéma directors, reconsidering their careers and analyzing key films in relation to the many factors that helped shape and determine their movies. Significantly, I also reexamine pertinent financial information on their films, which is occasionally surprising and should raise questions about why some histories have privileged one Cahiers critic-turned-director over another. For instance, while Chabrol, Truffaut, and Godard were clearly central to the New Wave as it was understood by 1960, Eric Rohmer and Jacques Rivette were considered marginal. Cahiers founder and critic Jacques Doniol-Valcroze and his friend, Cahiers critic Pierre Kast, made their first features in the late 1950s as well, and both Doniol-Valcrozes's L'eau à la bouche (A Game for Six Lovers, 1959) and Kast's Le bel âge (1958) proved more successful than the first features by Rohmer and Rivette. Thus after detailing the production and narrative strategies that distinguished Rohmer's and Rivette's early careers, I also investigate Doniol-Valcroze and Kast, moving them back into the New Wave subcategory where they belong, as active members of the Cahiers critics turned-directors.

 

Rather than an encyclopedic account of who is or is not in the nouvelle vague, this history investigates the conditions that gave rise to the phenomenon and the definitions that resulted. I have chosen to discuss films that were integral to the fervor of the New Wave, especially those that shared a role in revitalizing film language as well as motivating further experiments in film. The bulk of the book remains organized around directors, since this was an auteur-centered era, with individual directors struggling hard to devise their own personal styles while fighting for the economic means to remain as independent as possible. Nonetheless, whenever possible this study reminds the reader that these movies are not one-person shows, for all directors depended upon friends, producers, actors, editors, cinematographers, and composers, among others, to get their films made; the characteristic nouvelle vague look was produced by groups of people working within specific small, minimally industrial teams. Limiting the scope of this book allows for a valuable depth of historical and narrative analysis that will, I hope, inspire others to reinvestigate some of the hundreds of worthy New Wave films not touched on here. The so-called Left Bank Group warrants its own book-length study to reinvestigate the production, reception, and narrative strategies of Resnais, Varda, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Chris Marker, and Jacques Demy in particular.

 

For the purposes of this history, the New Wave should be seen as a large cinematic phenomenon that includes the earliest signs of changes in the industry (such as Vadim and Malle's films and the new Film Aid rules); the first successful new, younger directors and their films (Chabrol, Truffaut, and Godard, among others); the talented pool of bold producers, actors, editors, and cinematographers; but also the "wave" of first-time directors, working hard to get their films finished and into domestic and international distribution. The New Wave is precisely a wave of productions, some very successful, some now forgotten, and some demonstrating the risk of failure that always faces new, youthful experiments in narrative film. But what finally makes the New Wave's significance so enduring is that it has marked all French film production ever since. No one looks to Germany for a revival of expressionism. No one would expect Italy this year to explode with a new era of pure neorealism, but every French film is to a certain degree measured against the New Wave, and not a year goes by without some critic somewhere asking whether two particularly interesting young French directors might not be the harbingers of another nouvelle vague. Would that they were.

 

A few explanations concerning the book's overall format might prove helpful. I have tried to reduce the number of French phrases whenever possible in the interest of clarity and readability, though certain terms that have become part of the standard vocabulary of film studies, such as auteur, mise-en-scène, and cinephile, are used frequently. Film titles are given in original French on initial citations and their American, and occasionally British, release titles are also included. Subsequent references are typically made with the English-language title, especially if that name s very commonly used already in survey histories of French cinema. For instance, The 400 Blows has been more widely used than Les 400 coups (and it is much easier for non-French speakers to pronounce), so I employ the translated title most of the time. Films released abroad with their French title, such as Hiroshima, mon amour, are rare. Unless otherwise noted, all translations from French sources are mine.

 

The illustrations from the movies are all frame enlargements shot directly off the films, not inaccurate publicity stills. Those images that may appear a bit compressed, such as frames from The 400 Blows and Malle's Les amants (The Lovers, 1958), are from anamorphic wide-screen prints. Since the book is aimed at intermediate-level film students who have already been exposed to introductory film analysis and perhaps the basics of film history but not necessarily the concepts and vocabulary of the most daunting of film theory, I have endeavored to minimize unnecessary jargon; I hope the resulting format proves clear and convincing. The ultimate hope for this overview, of course, is to generate renewed interest among French film fans, motivating the reader to go back to lesser-known films by favorite directors or, better yet, to retest assumptions about films that may have disappointed in the past. The New Wave may have officially ended in 1964, but while many observers continue to search for other New Waves on the horizon, it proves just as fruitful to return attention to the scores of films that created all the furor in the first place. There is nothing like rediscovering a nouvelle vague masterpiece and remembering why it is one does film history in the first place."—Richard Neupert

 

Editor's statement

 

"Reviewer Kelley Conway of the UW Communication Arts Department says 'This is the work for which all instructors of college courses on French film have been waiting a long time. Finally we have a smart, book-length overview of the New Wave suitable for advanced undergraduates and all specialists in the study of French film. I predict that Neupert's work will immediately become the standard English-language reference on the French New Wave.' I think so too, and the result is an important addition to the scholarly wing of our cinema studies list, and to our growing focus on European cinema."—Raphael Kadushin

 

Author's bio

 

 

Richard Neupert is associate professor of film studies at the University of Georgia. He is the author of The End: Closure and Narration in the Cinema and his translations include Aesthetics of Film and French New Wave: An Artistic School.

 

 

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The Influence of the French New Wave

 

The legacy of the French New Wave lives on in the highly referential work of many modern film-makers such as Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Robert Altman, Quentin Tarantino and Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Tarantino constantly and knowingly references other films he admires in his own work, just as the New Wave did. In Amelie, Jeunet had actress Audrey Tautou break from the sealed world of the narrative to talk directly to the audience. Scorsese, Coppola and Altman, who all rose to fame in the decade after the New Wave, are open about the influence the French filmmakers had on their own work. Stylistically and philosophically, the ideas of the French New Wave have had a huge impact on the face of modern cinema.

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