La Nouvelle Vague began with a group of 5 filmmakers who had a strong influence of film theory and criticism whilst writing for the magazine Cahiers du Cini?? ma. These 5 filmmakers and critics Truffaut, Godard, Chabrol, Rivette and Rohmer, changed the notion on how film could be made which came from a desire to forge a new cinema, and thus the Nouvelle Vague was born. A group of directors who collaborated and assisted one another and developed a unique sense of form and style and narrative that makes their work instantly recognisable.
PHILOSOPHY Existentialism was a major influence, which evolved in France and was particularly associated with Jean Paul Sartre. It expressed the individual, stressed the experience of free choice and the absence of rational understanding. Perhaps this was the cause of so many women taking different roles to those that were pre-assigned by society. Characters were young anti heroes; loners with no family ties and they behaved spontaneously and immorally. There was much cynicism regarding politics.
In A Bout de Souffle, the protagonist kills and shows no remorse and in Cli?? o de 5 i?? 7, the woman stops playing the roles expected of her as the woman with cancer, and instead lives dangerously. CAMERA WORK The films made by les auteurs used lightweight, hand held cameras for easy shots along the streets of Paris, which were reminiscent of many films made, such as A Bout de Souffle and Les Quatres Cents Coups. The films were shot cheaply, quickly, and effectively encouraged experimentation and improvisation which gave the directors more freedom in their work.
We see a casual and very natural look; with on location filming, the mise en scene of Parisian streets, coffee bars a defining feature of works by Truffaut, Godard et al. The one and only camera that was used, was mobile, which was inventive as created many new techniques. It would follow the characters down the streets and looking over shoulders to watch surrounding life go by. In A Bout de Souffle, cini?? matographer Coutard was pushed around on a wheelchair to capture the fast paced love story and in Les Quatres Cents Coups, Truffaut used these hand held cameras to film Antoine on the Carousel. EDITING
The style was free, free of any Hollywood rules. It was discontinuous and the directors wanted to remind the audiences that they were watching a film. There were jump cuts and the insertion of material that was non-diegetic (extraneous to the film). Godard used these jump cuts to emphases and lengthy conversation in a room, or a car driving around Paris, there were such noticeable cuts! Irrelevant Shots in the film gave a comical effect to the film. Tirez le Pianist… “May my mother fall dead if I am lying… ” cut to a picture of the mother falling dead. It was casual himour, which was often inserted into the films.
SOME HOLLYWOOD INFLUENCES The films reflected an interest in questioning cinema itself by drawing attention to the convention of film making set by Hollywood. The directors of La Nouvelle Vague present an alternative to Hollywood by breaking these conventions, which seemed to be limited and boring to this new era of cinema. Yet it doesn’t forget to pay homage to what is good in the Hollywood Cinema. In fact, we can see how knowledgeable these critics were as they incorporated elements of the American Genre existent in Cinema into their films. Film Noir – A Bout de Souffle Gangster – Tirez le Pianiste Thriller – Bande i?? Part
And we see references, to particular Hollywood stars reminiscent in the films. Jean Paul Belmondo models himself on Humphrey Bogart, and we even see him stand in front of a poster of Bogart in Godard’s A Bout de Souffle. The actors in the film were encouraged to improvise and talk over each other’s lines. Before the films they were not big stars, but after, they became stars… Jeanne Moreau… a famous femme fatale. Her role was encouraging to female actresses and it is thanks to the New Wave directors for conforming against the social norms and giving the females a different role to play other than the dutiful wife and mother.
The films were highly personal as we see in Truffaut’s Les Quatres Cents de Coups. It was seen as an autobiographical film, while still paying homage to other directors. Antoine steals a still from a cinema, of the sultry Harriet Andersson in Ingmer Bergmans “Summer with Monika”. Bergman was an important director to Godard and Truffaut. The ending of Les Quatre Cents Coups ends with Antoine on the beach, a freeze frame with FIN, which is contradictory because there should be more of a story to come of this young boy. There was naturally, so it should have been “To be continued… ”
The French New Wave directors were highly critical of the glossy, studio bound French Cinema of the 1940’s and 1950’s, which is why we see so many “on location” films. However they did praise the works of many directors. Jean Renoir and Jean Vigo; Italian Neo-Realists Rossellini and Vittorio DeSica and Hollywood Auteurs Hitchcock and Hawks for their distinctive themes. They were a prolific group of directors who represented a radical departure from traditional cinema and they targeted a young, intellectual audience, and in turn, they celebrated an achieved critical and financial success in France and abroad.
In turn, they each diverged and developed their own style and distinctive voices. Truffaut incorporated more traditional elements, which is a shame as he found such success by forging a new breed of cinema. And Godard became increasingly radical in his later days. This Wave taught so many directors of today great things, and their films remain classics today, which is as much as a success now, as it was then.