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.
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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.