Tuesday, 14 August 2012

History & Development

The term French New Wave (La Nouvelle Vague) come about in the late 1950s and 1960s, formed by a group of French young filmmakers who were low budget and went against the prevailing trends in 1950s cinema of literary adaption. Francois Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Claude Chabrol, Jacques Rivette and Eric Rohmer, were the directors who associated with French New Wave and they were once all film critics for the magazine Cahiers du Cinéma, which was founded by Andre Bazin and Jacques Donial Valcroze. 

During the German occupation, Nazis had banned the import of American films. As a result, after the war, when the ban was lifted by the 1946 Blum-Byrnes agreement, nearly a decade’s worth of missing films arrived in French cinemas in the space of a single year. And it was a time for film lovers watched all these previously unreleased movies at the Cinematheque Francaise which is a film archive and public theater in Paris. 

The Cahiers du Cinéma critics respected the work of Hollywood film makers, such as Alfred Hitchcock and Howard Hawks, and Italian Neorealists, Roberto Rossellini, Vittorio De Sica. They defined themselves against the tradition of quality, similar to the decorative arts. The auteur policy was formulated by Francois Truffaut in his essay “A Certain Tendency of the French Cinema”, in which to critic the French tradition of quality school of film making. Auteur Theory critics study the style and themes of directors and assign to them the title of artists, rather than thinking of them as mere technicians. In another words, an auteur film involves subjective and personalized film making, rather than the mechanical transposition of a script on to film. 

In the late 1950s, the Cahiers du Cinéma critics started to make their own auteur film with the film subsidies were brought in by the Gaullist government. The core group of French New Wave directors initially collaborated and assisted each other, which helped in the development of a common and distinct use of form, style and narrative, which was to make their work instantly recognizable.

Aesthetic features of French New Wave:

· Challenge the traditions of films.

· Filming on location rather than in the studio.

· Lightweight handheld cameras, lightweight sound and lighting equipment, low cost and more flexible to shoot on location.

· Direct sound and available light instead of artificial studio lighting.

· The mise-en-scene French landscape and coffee bars became a norm of the films.

· Free editing style, jump cut and shaky handheld cinematography as well as actor’s monologues often drew attention to itself by being discontinuous, reminding the audience that they were watching a film.

· Long takes.

· Open endings, with situations being left unresolved.

· Improvise dialogues, unrelated dialogues and talk over each other’s lines to reflect real-life conversations.

· Startling shifts in tone, jolting spectator’s expectation.

· Lack of goal-oriented protagonists. The protagonists may drift aimlessly, engage in actions on the spur of the moment, or spend their time talking and drinking in a café or going to movie.

· Self reflexivity (meta-cinema), drawing spectator’s attention to the film by having the character looking at “You” (spectator), jump cut and shaky handheld camera shot.

· Anti-authoritarian, as the characters in French New Wave films are often marginalized, young anti-heroes and loners, with no family ties, often act immorally.

· Strong women role, women were given strong parts that didn’t conform to archetypal roles seen in Hollywood.


Bordwell, D., & Thompson, K. (2000). The French New Wave (1959-1964). In, Film Art An Introduction (9th ed.). (pp. 475-477). New York: McGraw- Hill.

Neupert, R. (2007). Launching a Wave. In, A History of the French New Wave Cinema (2nd ed.). (pp. 129-160). London: The University of Wisconsin Press.

Fancois, T. (1954). A Certain Tendency of the French Cinema. Cahiers du Cinéma. Retrieved July 28, 2012, from http://soma.sbcc.edu/users/DaVega/FILMST_113/Filmst113_ExFilm_Movements/FrenchNewWave/A_certain_tendency_tr%23540A3.pdf

Stephen, N. The French New Wave. Retrieved July 24, 2012, from http://www.library.spscc.ctc.edu/electronicreserve/swanson/FrenchNewWaveW05.pdf

Buckland, w. (2003). A bout de souffle/Breathless. In w. buckland, teach yourself- film studies. UK: The McGraw-Hill Companies.

Buckland, w. (2003). film authorship: the director as auteur. In w. buckland, teach yourself- film studies (pp. 72-74). UK: The McGraw-Hill Companies.

Buckland, w. (2003). Francois Truffaut and Cahiers du Cinema. In w. buckland, teach yourself- film studies (pp. 72-74). UK: The McGraw-Hill Companies.

Crisp, C. (1993). The Classic French Cinema and The New Wave. In, The Classic French Cinema, 1930-1960 (pp. 415-422). United States: Indiana University Press.

Sellier, G. (2008). Auteur Cinema: An affair of state. In, Masculine Singular: French New Wave Cinema (pp. 34-40). United States: Duke University Press.

David Bordwell, K. T. (2010). The French New Wave (1959-1964). In K. T. David Bordwell, Film Art: An Introduction (Ninth Edition) (pp. 475-477). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Film Analysis

Les Quatre Cents Coups (The 400 Blows,1959) Francois Truffaut

Les Quatre Cents Coups (The 400 Blows) is a film directed by Francois Truffaut in the year 1959. This is a story about a young Parisian boy, Antoine Doinel who keeps getting into trouble at school. His parents do their best to keep him in line but lack understanding. After he was punished for skipping classes, he runs away from home and spends a night on the streets. After that he’s caught red-handed in the act of stealing a typewriter and his father asks the police to do something. His parents and authorities agree to send Antoine to reform school near the shore. One day while playing football, Antoine escapes under a fence and runs away to the ocean. He reaches the shoreline of the sea and runs into it. The film concludes with a freeze-frame of Antoine, and then the camera zooms in on his face, looking into the camera. 

CriterionTrailers. (2007,July 23).  Criterion Trailer 5: The 400 Blows [Video file]. 
Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SYCD1IBzzC0&feature=player_embedded  

This film was filmed on location in Paris and Honfleur rather than in the studio to shows the naturalistic.


At the beginning of the film, it shows the landscape of the Paris in long takes by the handheld cameras and so the shot were look shaky.

Besides when come to the end of the film, it shows the landscape of the ocean when Antoine runs away from the reform school.

Long shot

A scene (1:36:29 ) when Antoine runs away from reform school. A long shot showing he keep running along the road side and reaches the shoreline of the sea and he keep runs into it.


The scene (21:38) when Antoine and his friend Rene secretly put their bag inside the classroom, the camera first showing they walking across the street but once the camera fast panning to the left, and they have appeared in front of the camera. It using the Pan technique to manipulate space and time when they are walking.

Elliptical editing / Jump cuts

Scene inside the police station (1:14:53). When Antoine’s father is talking to the inspector, and the scene haven shows what his father response to the inspector then the scene is already jump to Antoine with a inspector at outside doing the interview session.

The scene (1:29:36) when Antoine answers questions from a psychologist about his life. It use the transition to show the jump of the conversation when after Antoine talking.

Direct sound & Available light

The location shooting caused some scene in the film have recorded some physical noise and they need dependent at the available light in the scene when shooting.

There is a scene (0:19:15) when Antoine throw the rubbish at the ground floor of his apartment and there has a noise of baby crying.

Besides, the scene (1:15:41) when Antoine is bring into the jail by the police after he steals a typewriter. There was a low key lighting when the police bring Antoine walk into the jail which after that sharing a cell with the thieves.

Scene (1:20:23) in police station, it shows the suddenly changes of lighting which from a low key lighting and suddenly a strong light appear at the behind of the police standing outside the jail and showing the shadow.


Antoine and his friend Rene like to skip school, sneak into movies, steal things, smoking which totally are immoral action. A scene showing Antoine is caught during class with a picture of a pinup model in a bathing suit and he writes words that challenge the teacher’s authority. Besides, when Antoine answer the question from psychologist about does he ever have any sex before. And his answer was some of his friends done so and he went for the prostitute but not successful get a prostitute.


In this film, transition is use frequently when transit from one scene to another scene. The used of transition remind the audiences that they are watching the film.

In many scenes in this film we don’t see the other person Antoine is talking to, which gives the viewer the illusion as if Antoine is almost talking directly to the camera. Beside the scene (1:33:58) when Antoine having the conversation with his mother. The shot close up his mother eye looking at the camera.

The film concludes with Antoine look at camera and the frame is closing freeze-frame and zoom in to Antoine’s face. 

Improvise dialogues & unscripted dialogue

During the interview between Antoine and the psychologist about his life. In the scene, the director asked the question himself, giving Antoine complete freedom to answer as he wished. 

Lastly, in this film, we can see that it full use of the line especially when Antoine is brought into jail. Examples we can see are in the scene (1:17:47), when Antoine is in the lockup and his point of view look out. (1:19:22) when Antoine inside the police car, when he look out. The using of line give us the feeling of Antoine is lack of freedom and it’s like a boundary between Antoine and the world.

A Bout De Souffle (Breathless, 1960) Jean-Luc Godard

Michel Poiccard, a petty thief who makes money by stealing cars, murders the policeman who pursues him. Now wanted by the authorities, he renews his relationship with Patricia Franchini, a hip American girl studying journalism at the Sorbonne, whom he had met in Nice a few weeks earlier. Before leaving Paris, he plans to collect a debt from an underworld acquaintance and expects her to accompany him on his planned getaway to Italy. Eventually, he is betrayed by Patricia. He killed by the police.

Jarvinho (2008, May 6). À bout de souffle (Trailer). [Video file].
Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w2hDR_e1o1M

Elliptical editing/ jump cut
A discontinuous technique, suggest that the audience only see what is important in this film and at times seems reckless or irresponsible, just as Michel's character is.

In the scene michel shoot the traffic cop, after Michael shoots and kills a traffic cop. In the long shot, we see the the cop approaching Michel's car. In medium long shot, Mechel reaches into the car. Two very brief close-ups pan along Michel's arm and along the gun. The cop then falling into some underbrush.

During the conversation in a the car with Michel, there a series of jump cuts of Patricia as showing the last and the first frame of contiguous shots.

Long takes
There is a scene in the photography studio, Patricia tells Michel about her feeling. She having monologue while walking round the pillar repeatly.

Location shooting
(rather than the studio, as in the tradition of quality)

Scene in the beginning, Michel driving the car and being chased by the police officer on the highway.

The rest/ majority of the film, are shooting particularly on the streets of Paris. For example, Michel found Patricia on the Champs Elysees in early scene.

Direct sound and available light
The location shooting created the situation in which ambient noise intrude on the dialogue.

A passing siren ouside Patricia's appartment nearly overwhelms her conversation with Michel during the long central scene.

The loud whines of nearby planes drown out the conversation during Patricia interviewing Parvulesco in the press conference.

The option that not to add any artificial light in the setting, results in the character's faces sometimes fall into shadow.

When Patricia sits againts a window in her apartment and lights a cigarette, the natural light of the scene illuminates her only from behind.

Handheld camera
(made possible by the invention of lightweight cameras) - the camera is very mobile and shaky

The scene Michel meeting with Patricia as she strolls along the Champs Elysees selling paper, it’s a bit shaky.

When Michel visits atravel agent trying to claim his check, the framing glides and turns with ease as the moves arround the desks and through the corridors.

Stronger female roles
Patricia practise sexually independent/ exercise her sexual independent

Patricia choose the slept with whoever she wants. She willing to slept with Michel although she has known him only briefly. And a scene where Patricia counting how many men she has slept with before during the conversation with Michel on the bed.

Patricia is an ambitious person who doesn’t need to depend on men for money. When Michel first find, she is selling newspaper on the Champs Elysees. Yet she chooses to interview the novelist, Parvulesco rather than hang out with Michel. Patricia keeps saying she wants to get a job as Tribune reporter and write a novel.

Patricia makes decision for herself whereas she chooses to protect Michel from the detective but when she want to leave him as she want to prevent from trouble, she called the police to catch him.

Anti- authoritative character
Michel is an immoral character that involve in crime whereas stealing money and car, corrupted, murder and more.

Politic issues involved
There are news about war broadcasting on the radio in the early scene, Michel go to the apartment visits an old girlfriend.

The scene Michel in Patricia's apartment room, the radio is broadcasting about the Algeria war. Patricia then ask Michel whether will he in army.

Vivre Sa Vie (My Life to Live,1962) Jean-Luc Godard

       A film directed by Jean-Luc Godard, it consist of 12 chapter in the life of a young woman who turns to prostitution to pay her rent. Nana leaves her family hoping to become an actress. Without money, beyond what she earns as a shopgirl, and unable to enter acting, she choose to earn better money as a prostitute. Soon she has a pimp, Raoul, who after an unspecified period agrees to sell Nana to another pimp. During the exchange the pimps argue and in a gun battle Nana is killed.

Filmsnyc, Janus. (2008, May 16). Vivre sa vie Trailer (Jean-Luc Godard, 1962) [Video file].
Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=dfZQpLSuxKE

Improvise dialogues & unscripted dialogue

       The conversation between Nana and husband in café in the very beginning scene, the camera was close-up of Nana back, she keeps saying “what do you care” in monologue way. 

In chapter 6, the conversation between Nana and her friend, a close-up shot of Nana face, “I raise my hand, I’m responsible. I turn my head, I’m responsible. I am unhappy, I’m responsible. I smoke, I’m responsible. I shut my eyes, I’m responsible… A message is a message, plate is plate, men are men and life is life”

Chapter 8, the pimp is teaching Nana the tricks of the trade of prostitution, in the middle he repeating saying: ‘that one” four times in mechanically way.

Strong female role

Godard had made shape Nana as a strong female, as she is ambitious to become an actress

In the beginning scene in café, Nana decides to leave her son and husband, Paul, even Paul refuse. She warns him, “If we get back together, I’ll betray you again,” and blames him for preventing her from fulfilling her ambitions as an actress.

Long take

       Godard employs a series of long take throughout the film. Chapter 2, it was an approximate 4minutes long take shows Nana serving customer in record store.

Chapter 3, another 3 minutes long shot shows the conversation between Nana and a man in a café. Chapter 7, an approximate 4 minutes long take shows conversation between Nana with has a pimp, Raoul.

Jump cut / Elliptical Editing

       Godard presents a series of jump cut. Chapter 5, in hotel room, the whoremaster pays Nana money, the whole action was not complete, a close-up shot shows the whoremaster put his hand in to his pocket, next time shot Nana has already collect the money. In chapter 6, Nana heard machine gun sound in café, there is a jump cut tracking shot mimics the rattle of a machine gun. Chapter 7, the pimp is teaching Nana the tricks of the trade of prostitution. The scene keeps on changing among hotel room, toilet, lift, makeup table, the street and stair.

Filming on location

       Due to the portable equipment, Godard is able to shooting cheaply on location. Begin of chapter 5, there is a shot capturing the boulevard. Following by a shot shows Nana walking on the street. Beginning of Chapter 6, Nana walking on the street and meet her friend then walk together to a café. Chapter 10, Nana standing on the street smoking and looking for whoremaster.

Lack of goal- oriented protagonists

       Chapter 3, Nana goes to cinema watch movie.

Self reflexivity (meta- cinema)

       In chapter 6, there is a part of music singing scene, Nana smile and looking at camera, it reminding audience are watching movie.


       Nana, a rotten character. In chapter 4, Nana is being interrogated by police because of stealing people money. First chapter, Nana smoke and decide to leave her family. Chapter 5, Nana became a prostitute. 

Reject Film tradition

      Tradition Film obeying the 180 degree, continuity editing, however, French New Wave director tends to reject the film tradition. The conversation between Nana and a men in café, director choose to use a long take and keep on take turn shooting on Nana and a men by moving the camera, instead of using the 180 degree rule or shot/ reverse shot. In the last chapter, there is a scene Nana hug with a young guy, Godard purposely edit it repeat the hugging action.Every end of the chapter there is a transition slowly fades out. 

Open ending

       The ending is particularly enigmatic. As Nana get shot at the end.


      In our opinoin, the French New Wave could be considering as the most important film movement of the 20th century. Without it, film isn’t as open, as free, or as experiemental today. Without the likes of Godard and Truffaut, studios and sets and literature would still limit movies. They freed up cinema to come into it’s own as an art form and differ itself like it never had been before. French New Wave film indebted to film noir whereas given stronger parts in women roles but not wholly bound by its norm, film noir were made largely in the studio, French New Wave utilize location shooting