May 13, 2012
Elements of Film
French New Wave Cinema
The Beginning and Background:
French New Wave Cinema began as a result of many different factors. World War II brought economic hardships within France which brought hostility against the standards of society. Beginning in the 1950’s and gaining momentum in the 1960’s, the French New Wave film style was born. Many call French New Wave films as examples of European Art Cinema. The film movement was never formally organized but was linked by a rejection of classical cinematic form, standardized Hollywood, and a focus on idealized youth. Most of these directors were born in the 1930's and grew up in Paris, they were easily able to relate the experiences and hostilities that existed within youth culture and manifested the real lives of French youth through fashion, urban professional life, and all night parties. These young directors sought to create a unique form of filmmaking that would thoroughly become a part of the social and active period of the 1960’s. Many directors engaged their work with the oscial and political upheavals of the time, making radical experiments in editing, visual style, filming, and narrative as an overall break with the conservative status quo.
Shot from the film Jules and Jim by Francois Truffaut
Cahiers du Cinema (Notebook of Cinema)
The Cahiers du Cinema began as a French film magazine. This magazine would become the basis for the new cinematic forms and theories that would become a part of the French New Wave Cinema filmmaking approach. Many of the editors for this influential magazine would go on to become famous directors of the French New Wave such as Eric Rohmer, Jacques Rivette, Jean-Luc Godard, Claude Cabrol and Francois Truffaut. The Cahiers du Cinema is still a magazine in distribution today and continues to influence the filmmaking process.
1961 issue of Cahiers du Cinema
Auteur Theory (Author Theory)
The Auteur Theory came to be known as the manifesto of the principles that are associated with the French New Wave cinema. Francois Truffaut came up with the theory during his time working as an editor for the Cahiers du Cinema. The Auteur Theory holds the belief that a directors creative vision holds precedent within the filmmaking process. The auteur theory furthermore believes that a film should reflect the directors personal vision. These directors believed that they had a personal message to get across to the viewing masses. The future directors within the Cahiers du Cinema understood that moviemaking had become a massive industrial process where due to many factors the vision of the piece was becoming misconstrued. These directors using the Auteur theory sought to bring the filmmaking process back in the hands of the director. Although the auteur theory seems to be an obvious point within films and the filmmaking process today, it was an explosive revolution in the process of reevaluating the process of filmmaking.
In the context of social and economic troubles of a post-World War II France, filmmakers sought low-budget alternatives to the usual production methods. Using portable equipment and requiring little or no set up time, the New Wave way of filmmaking presented a documentary type style of filmmaking. The films exhibited direct sounds on film stock that required less light. Filming techniques included fragmented, discontinuous editing, and long takes. The movies featured unprecedented methods such as long tracking shots, jump cuts, and mis en scene. Due to the fact that most shots were filmed in one long take, directors were able to use jump cuts to create new and interesting ways of creating dialogue within the films and reasserting the director’s creative control. Many films were shot outside on location due to economic concerns but eventually would become synonymous with French New Wave directors artistic style.
Director Francois Truffaut experimenting with film style.
French New Wave directors sought to revolutionize the narrative style of cinema The New Wave directors did not want to hold your hand through each scene, directing you emotion by emotion, through a fixed narrative. These directors wanted to break up the experience, to make it exciting, and to jolt the viewer out of complacent viewing, they attempted to make the viewers think about their own lives, thoughts and emotions as well. Dialogue within these films was mean to be as realistic as possible. Expressing the truth is the utmost importance. The object of the narratives was not simply to entertain, but also to sincerely communicate.
One of the most famous French New Wave films, Breathless, by director Jean-Luc Godard and starring Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg, used all of the cinematic points to create a timeless French New Wave film. The story tells of a young and impressionable car thief who models himself after Humphrey Bogart. He meets a beautiful American girl and they begin a complex relationship that becomes confronted as the police begin searching for them and leaves the viewer through an exciting story that you truly do not know what will happen next. The films trailer uses the form of unique narrative style to tell the background of the story and many of the shots are done outdoors in broad sunlight. Furthermore the story revolves around two youthful and energetic young people who are trying to make sense in a world that is constantly changing around them.