the french new wave [la nouvelle vague] definitions and influence
What is the french new wave and why does it matter? • An artistic movement whose influence on film has been as profound and enduring as that of surrealism or cubism on painting. • The birth of the ‘auteur’ and the rise of the ‘camera stylo’ • An explosion of young vibrant film makers • A capturing of the zeitgeist of the times – a cultural revolution
Origins of theNEW WAVE The label – NEW WAVE appeared in a sociological investigation of the phenomenon of the new post war generation published in L’Express This survey involved 8 million French people between the ages of 18 and 30 who were asked questions relating to fashion, morals, values, lifestyles and cultural behaviour. Cinema was seen as of a secondary importance The findings were published in a volume under the title of ‘La Nouvelle Vague: portraits de la jeunesse [The New Wave: Portraits of Youth]
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 favour of a new form of film (and sound) language. The Cahiers critics 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 du cinema had two guiding principles: 1) A rejection of classical montage-style filmmaking (favoured by studios up to that time) in favour of: mise-en-scene, or, literally, "placing in the scene" (favouring the reality of what is filmed over manipulation via editing), the long take, and deep composition 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."
The filmmakers of the French New Wave are unique and distinctive enough to stand out on their own but they collectively comprised one of the most influential movements in cinema history. Some of the films have aged better than others. Even though they weren't aiming at mainstream success, many of these films became popular and critically acclaimed worldwide, the subject of much debate, and, ultimately, the inspiration to filmmakers everywhere. The five filmmakers who came from the Cahiers du cinema(Truffaut, Godard, Chabrol, Rivette and Rohmer) were incredibly prolific: in the years between 1959 and 1966, the peak of the New Wave, they made 32 films.
A technical Practice – an Aesthetic • The auteur director is also the scenarist/ scriptwriter for the film • The director does not follow a strict pre-established shooting script • The director privileges shooting in natural locations • The director uses a small crew • The director opts for ‘direct sound’ • The director does does not depend on additional lighting • The director employs non-professional actors • The director will direct famous actors in a free manner
WHAT DOES THIS APPROACH ALLOW FOR? • A greater sense offlexibility • Erasing the boundariesbetweenprofessional and amateur cinema/ fiction and documentary • Creativityin filmmaking – creation of narrative is unrestricted • LOW budgets • An exploration of thecontemporary • Digressionandsubversion
Natural lighting – sharp contrast between Black and White TECHNIQUES of FILMING Alternative framing Fast and sensitive stock – Coutard’s influence Making mistakes – Chabrol famously looked into a bolt when asked to look through the eyepiece on his first film Liberation of the camera from the TRIPOD Self reference – the appropriation of certain cinematic techniques and director styles REPORTAGE –the HIDDEN camera Collaboration with cinematographers
TECHNIQUES of Editing FLASH PANS Discontinuity of shot The LONG take – static/ mobile or lateral tracking A disregard of continuity editing Syncopated editing Break the rules – CREATE new ones –BREAK THEM jumpCUT MODERN MONTAGE RAPID REFRAMING from one shot to another
TECHNIQUES of SOUND Interior Monologues and random comments MODERN SOUNDTRACKS RENOIR – Direct Sound – sacrifice the sound for authenticity Transcribing – direct sound and post synchronization Early NEW WAVE FILMS – were POST SYNCHRONIZED The NAGRA
The film reviewers and journalists made use of this expression to designate a certain group of young directors. In my opinion, it never really corresponded to reality in the sense that,for example, outside of France, in particular, people seemed to believe there was an association of young French directors who got together regularly and had a plan, a common aesthetic, when in fact there was never anything like that and it was all a fiction, made up from the outside. Francois Truffaut
KEY TEXTS • A BOUT DE SOUFFLE 1960 • LES MISTONS 1958 • ET DIEU CREA LA FEMME [And God Created Woman] 1956 • LES QUATRE CENT COUPS 1959 • JULES ET JIM 1962 • LE BOUCHER [for the new wave style] 1970 • LA PEAU DEUCE 1964 • CHARLOTTE ET SON JULES • PIERROT LE FOU 1965