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Lecture 5: Film Theory 2 - French New Wave 1950’s & 1960’s Cinema

When talking about french new wave cinema, this describe a period of many ‘new waves’ within both Britain and france, however the french movement became much more influential, with an in particular focus on Paris

French new wave cinema focuses on a group of french film makers, most commonly comprising of Jean-Luc Goddard, Francois Truffaut, Claude Chabrol and Jacques Rivette, most interestingly is that all of these film maker were film critic prior to being film makers and many also had a strong background in film theory

These film makers existed within the 1950’s and 1960’s and were influenced by Italian Neorealism and classic hollywood cinema

La Pointe Courte (1954) by Agnes Varda is seen as the start of the french new wave period, La Pointe Courte achieved cult status and went on to be the predecessor that inspired films by Jean-Luc Goddard, Francois Truffaut, Claude Chabrol five years later

New wave french cinema is seen as part of european art cinema, which despite being without a formal organization they had strong beliefs in the rejection of classical cinematic form, many of these films also engaged in with the social and political woes of the era.

Breathless (1960) was Goddard’s first feature length film which went on to become one of the most influential films of the new wave era, Goddard’s films became known for his cut of cutting and innovative use of jump cuts, similar to Hitchcock’s fame for the techniques he used, These techniques combined with Goddard’s strong visual style brought many eyes to the work and lead to it’s acclaimed status.

The french new wave has many defining characteristics, film makers turn from critics to auteurs, they are against the ‘cinema of quality’, the discovery of american genre films, cinematic values over literary values, the importance of personal expression and spontaneity and digression. Henri Langlois and the Paris Cinemateque

Henri Langlois was a pioneer of film preservation and became a french film archivist and cinephile. Langlois was a co-founder of the Cinematheque Francaise with Georges Franji and Jean Mitry. He later became the co-founder of the International Federation of Film Archives 1938. He also worked to preserve films and film history in the post-war era.

Andre Bazin and the realist tradition, Bazin thought that abstraction and artifice were to be kept to a minimum. The materials in reality should be able to speak to themselves. This links back to earlier lectures with Richard where we looked at truth to materials. Bazin believed that reality was the most important factor in cinema and that the director must reveal reality throughout. He believes that cinema lies between the sprawl of raw life, and the artificially re-created worlds of the traditional arts. Film makers can also preserve actual time and space by panning, tilting, and cracking rather than cutting into specific shots

Existentialism and term coined by Philosopher Jean Paul Sartre, denotes how film stressed the individual, experience of free choice, the absence of any rational understanding of the universe, sense of absurdity in human life, shot on location, used lightweight, hand held cameras, lightweight sound and lighting equipment, faster film stocks with less light, films shot quickly and cheaply, encouraged experimentation and improvisation, casual natural look created, available sound and light used, Mise-en-sence the french landscape and mobile camera improvised and innovative.

New wave came as result of the reaction against the french films of the 1940’s which were shot in studios, set in the past, the films were over dramatized, agianst the use of film trickery and special effects and against La tradition de qualite.

The new wave celebrated american film noir because if represented contemporary urban life, the characters in these films are in contemporary dress and speaking in the vernacular.

French new wave brought with it a particular style of editing which featured free style editing, the lack of conformity to editing rules, discontinuous style, use of jump cuts, insertion of extraneous material, the shooting of these films was on location, used natural light and improvised dialogue

New wave also resulted in a mood shift within films, heroes are seen as aimless, stylish and act silly, they are also cowardly and are amoral. Mood shifts that occur are infatuation, romanticism and boredom. Many films are about death and betrayal.

Other new wave films from 1959, François Truffaut - The 400 Blows, Alain Resnais - Hiroshima Mon Amour
From 1960, Jean-Luc Godard -Breathless, François Truffaut - Shoot the Piano Player

From 1961, Jacques Rivette - Paris nous appartient, Jean-Luc Godard - A Woman Is A Woman, Alain Resnais - Last Year At Marienbad

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