Tuesday, 14 August 2012

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History and Development of French New Wave

Retrieved from http://www.newwavefilm.com/images/Francois_Truffaut_Nouvelle_Vague_Guide.jpg

Getting to grips with the New Wave might thus understandably seem a daunting prospect for somebody wanting to discover for the first time what the movement is all about. With that in mind, this introduction will offer some suggestions as to where to start your investigations of New Wave cinema. This article is meant to act as an introduction to the context and a walk through of some of the basic ideas surrounding the New Wave, as well as an overview of the seminal "must see" films which best define the movement.

Based on Nelmes (1996) in 1959 which is the birth of the Nouvelle had a profound impact on the way cinema developed in France after the Second World War and on the kinds of film made in that country. Despite this, The Nouvelle Vague represented a significant break with the tradition de qualite and brought into filmmaking a large number of younger directors. Those director who came to prominence through the New Wave and who have remained major names in the pantheon of European “auteur” directors include Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, Eric Rohmer, Jacques Rivette, Claude Chabrol, Alain Resnais, Chris Marker and Agnes Varda.

The phrase “New Wave” (Ia Nouvelle Vague) refers to a group of film-makers who between the end of the 1950s and early to mid-1960s in France, momentarily transformed French cinema and had a great impact on film-makers throughout the world. Those directors who came to prominence through the New Wave and who have remained major names in the pantheon of European “auteur” director include Jean-Luc Godard, Francois Truffaut and so on. The term New Wave was coined by a journalist named Francoise Giroud who wrote a series of article on French youth for the weekly news magazine L’Express.(Nelmes ,1996)

After the occupation by Nazi, the American cinema is return back to screen.This exposure to Hollywood films was a formative influence on the young critics who would become the director of the New Wave in the late 1950s.For them,America film was more vital,more varied and considerably more exciting than the postwar productions of the French industry which they derided as le cinema de papa. . (Nelmes, 1996)

A Bout de Soufflé (Breathless) (Godard, 1960)

A group of directors, Truffaut, Godart, Claude Chabrol, Jacques Rivette and Rohmer who had all worked as critics for Cahiers du cinema in the 1950s had a habit of attacking the most artistically respected French filmmaker of the day. Writing criticism didn’t satisfy these young men. They itched to make movies by borrowed money .At the end of the decade, they began to make films. Their talent was recognized when Truffaut’s first feature film, Les Quatre Cent Coups was awarded the critics prized at the 1959 Cannes Film Festival and the Nouvelle Vague quickly became a marketing slogan in the pro-Gaullist press to promote the idea that with the change of regime in 1958 France had been regenerated and rejuvenated. (Forbes, 1998)

Besides that, Rivette filmed Paris nous Appartient (Paris belong to us), Godard made A Bout de soufflé (Breathless), Chabrol made his second feature Les Cousins .The novelty and youthful vigor of these directors led journalists to nickname them La nouvelle vague-the New Wave. Their output was staggering, the five central directors made 32 feature films between 1959 and 1966.Godard and Chabrol made 11 apiece. (Bordwell, 2008)

Claude Chabrol’s Les bonnes femmes (1960).

The Nouvelle Vague gave a new lease of life to French cinema, which had survived the 1950s with declining audiences but which with the spread of television was about to lose its mass audience for good. The government supported the industry through enforced quotas, bank had invested heavily and there was a flourishing business of international coproduction. New Wave directors shot films much more quickly and cheaply then did reigning directors and could be designated as ‘art movies’. Moreover the young director helped one another out and thus reduced the financial risk of the established companies. Thus the French industry supported the New Wave through distribution, exhibition and production. (Forbes, 1998)

The final moment of radical change to affect the French cinema was the revolt of May 1968. Filmmakers were involved in a number of ways, they demonstrated in support of Henri Langlois, the director of the Cinematheque and against government proposals to take over the organization. Many filmmakers like Jean-Luc-Godard were involved in making so-called Cinetracts or film leaflets. These were film records of events in the streets and public buildings that were intended to serve as a counterweight to the strongly pro-Gaullist ORTF television service. This long term effects of May 1968 were to throw into sharp relief the ideology of the Nouvelle Vague. It’s also marked the divergence of the careers of Nouvelle Vague directors and revealed how fragile and temporary the apparent homogeneity of the group had been.


Nelmes.J. (1996).An Introduction to Film Studies. (3rd Ed).Rout ledge London.

Hill.J&Gibson.P.C. (1998).The Oxford Guide to Film Studies. (3rd).Oxford
University Press.

Thompson, K. & Bordwell, D. (2010). Film History: An Introduction (8rd Ed.). New
York, NY: McGraw Hill.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Characteristics of French New Wave Films

The exclusive experience of French New Wave filmmakers was manifest in their films. They always insisted on a naturalistic style. This lead to a few conventions that indicate most New Wave films.


Unlike all classical Hollywood films, French New Wave films tend to break the rules of continuity editing and using free editing style. The directors of French New Wave often drew attention from audiences by discontinuity, reminding them that they are watching a movie. For example, the editing style they always used is jump cut. According to Nichols (2010), a jump cut is a mismatch, in which the shift from one shot to the next fails to maintain smooth continuity in space or time. In Jean Luc Godard's A Bout De Soufflé (Breathless, 1960), we can see a lot of jump cuts. Below, we show the example of the car driving scene in Paris from this film.

 Retrieved from A Bout De Souffle (Breathless), 1960.

Shoot on Location & Natural Sound

The directors of French New Wave had admired the Neorealists especially Rossellini, and in opposition to studio filmmaking, they decided to shoot on location. They replaced the glossy studio light with natural and available light. Thus, the French New Wave films always look natural and casual. In addition, they also doing experiment of the sound. Unlike studio filmmaking which remixing the sound, French New Wave directors recorded the sound during shooting and did not do any correction. For example, in A Bout De Soufflé , the sound come after action and the highway scene was shoot on location  

Highway scene (Michel driving).  Retrieved from A Bout De Souffle (Breathless), 1960.

Michel following a guy in a lift, Godard did not use any lighting. Thus, the scene looks dark.  Retrieved from A Bout De Souffle (Breathless), 1960.

Low Budget/ Budgetary Restrictions

After World War II, France undergoes an economic crisis. Thus, the amount of investment in filmmaking is very low. Many films were produces on low budget. To produce a film, French New Wave directors borrowed friend's apartment or yard, using the director's friends as the cast and crew. For example, in A Bout De Soufflé, the protagonist talking with his girlfriend in the apartment and the room of protagonist in Agnes Varda's Cleo From 5 to 7.

The room looks small. Scene from A Bout De Souffle (Breathless), 1960. 

The room looks big but empty. Scene from Cleo From 5 to 7.
Retrieved from http://www.warwickartscentre.co.uk/events/film/cleo-from-5-to-7-pg

Hand-held Cameras

While watching French New Wave films, we will discover some scene look very shaky and unstable. It is because the directors took advantages of the new technology which developed by Eclair company that was available to them in the late 1950s- lightweight hand-held camera. This hand-held camera allowed them to shoot on location easily and creating many long tracking shoot. In these films, often only one camera was used. The directors used the camera to follow characters walking along the streets, into cafes and bars, or looking over their shoulders to catch their point of view. In Cleo From 5 to 7 (1962), Agnes Varda used many tracking shots to follow Cleo along Parisian streets.

 Retrieved from Cleo de 5 a 7 (Cleo From 5 to 7), 1962.

Improvised Plot & Dialogue

In opposition to the classical filmmaking, the directors of French New Wave often shot their films with loose structure and open-ended storyline. They did not wrap their climax tidily. For example, the ending of Cleo From 5 to 7. Besides that, much of the story is made up very close to the time of the shooting. They did not plan well before shooting and the dialogue was often change or write the same day it was read. Sometimes, the actors are giving the general idea of the scene. Thus, the dialogue sometimes was not related to the storyline at all. Below, I show the example of a conversation in a hotel scene from A Bout De Soufflé (1960).

 Retrieved from A Bout De Souffle (Breathless), 1960.

Anti-authoritarian Protagonist

When we watch French New Wave films, the protagonist in these films were always marginalized, young anti-heroes, and alienated loners, they live with no family ties, behave spontaneously, and often act immorally. They frequently seen as anti- authoritarian. For example, the protagonist in A Bout De Soufflé was a car thief, he killed policeman, steal money from his girlfriend, and spent his time to avoiding capture. While in Varda's Cleo From 5 to 7 (1961), the protagonist run away from the roles others expected from her after she discovered that she have cancer, she decided to live her own life.

Michel (played by Jean-Paul Belmondo) in A Bout De Soufflé was a car thief.
Retrieved from http://wax-wane.com/category/icons/

Cleo (played by Corinne Marchand) in Cleo From 5 to 7 meets a soldier in Parc Montsouris. 
Retrieved from http://www.online-inquirer.com/cinema/cleo-from-5-to-7/   


Pramaggiore & Wallis (March, 2011). ‘Breaking the rules: The French New Wave and its Influence’, Film: A Critical Introduction 3rd Edition, USA & Canada. Allyn & Bacon: pp.215-217.

Kolker, Robert (2001) ‘Chapter 5: The Stories Told by Film’, Film Form, and Culture, New York, McGraw-Hill: pp. 199-100.

Bordwell & Thompson (2009) ‘The French New wave (1959-1964)’, Film Art: An Introduction, New York, McGraw-Hill: pp.475-477.

Nichols, Bill (2010). " Chapter 1: Film as A Language", Engaging Cinema: An Introduction to Film Studies, New York. W.W.Norton &Company, Inc: pg 46.

Agnes Varda (Director) & Georges de Beauregard (Producer). April 11, 1962. Cleo de 5 a 7 (Cleo From 5 to 7). France.

Jean-Luc Godard (Director) & Georges de Beauregard (Producer). March 16, 1960. A Bout De Soufflé (Breathless). France. UGC.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Analysis on Selected Movie-Hiroshima Mon Amour

Hiroshima Mon Amour

Hiroshima, mon amour (Alain Resnais,1959). 
Retrieved from http://rato-movieposters.blogspot.com/2010/10/hiroshima-mon-amour-1959.html

The impact of the Nouvelle Vague on film makers around the world reinvented the language of cinema, and elevated the status of the director to one of reverence and commentator. Hiroshima Mon Amour was directed by Alan Resnais in 1959. Resnais was part of the Left Bank intellectual crowd in the late 50s during French New Wave movement.

Hiroshima, mon amour (Alain Resnais, 1959) tells the story of a French woman’s (played by Emmanuelle Riva) love affair with a Japanese man in postwar Hiroshima. Throughout the time they spent together, they had an intense discussion of what the woman has seen in Hiroshima. There were also several flashbacks of the woman’s past, where she recounts the affair she had with a young German soldier in her hometown, Nevers.

Beginning with a lengthy montage sequence with some evocative tracking shots down a hospital corridor in Hiroshima, the film feels like an abstract experiment in editing, juxtaposing voice over with starkly composed imagery of victims of the American nuclear bombing of Hiroshima.

Tracking shot in the hospital corridor in Hiroshima.

The movie’s most prominent characteristic is its use of flashbacks to create an elliptical storyline, a revolutionary move during the time when most movies uses a more linear way of storytelling. Resnais’ intention is to illustrate the woman’s train of thought, which goes back and forth in time to relate with the events that is recurring in her life. For example, as she is having a conversation with the Japanese man, she recalls back the time she had an affair with the German soldier, and is convinced that her relationship this time will be doomed too.

This editing technique is one of the key characteristics of the French New Wave. The dialogue in the movie is also a strong example of the filmmaking techniques employed in the French New Wave. The repetitive conversation between the pair of lovers propels the movie ahead rather than the development of the story itself. As opposed to following a very definite structure of beginning and ending the movie, the screenplay of Marguerite Duras uses the duality of situations the woman is facing—memory and forgetfulness, love and pain, embrace and separation, past and present—to form the structure of the movie.

The conversation between a pair of lovers from Hiroshima Mon Amour.

The use of actual locations in Hiroshima, mon amour is also a characteristic of French New Wave cinema. Resnais shot most of the film in the streets and buildings of Japan as opposed to studio sets or sound stages.

 Hiroshima's street view. Retrieved from Hiroshima, mon amour (Alain Resnais,1959) 


Anatole Dauman&Samy Halfon (Producer), Alain Resnais (Director). (1959). Hiroshima mon amour. France: Pathe Films

Michel Ciment&Laurence Kardish (2002) "Hiroshima mon amour", Positif, 50 years, Museum of Modern Art Publications: pp 49-58.

Marguerite Duras (1961) Hiroshima mon amour, New York, Grove Press:pp15-26.

Analysis on selected movie-Les Bonnes Femmes

Les Bonnes Femmes

Film poster. Les Bonnes Femmes (Claude Chabrol, 1960).
Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Les_Bonnes_Femmes

Claude Chabrol is one of the most widely appreciated directors of the French New Wave. His films contributed to the movement through his pioneering cinematic elements. In the 1960’s he made a well known film entitled Les Bonnes Femmes (Claude Chabrol, 1960) and it really portrayed Chabrol’s style in cinema through its loose film structure. In this film, Chabrol kept the viewers minds open to interpretation with almost every given scene.

Les Bonnes Femmes is about four attractive young Parisians who work together in an electric appliance store. They are Jane, Ginette, Rita and Jacqueline. They spend their free time looking for love and fulfillment with little success. Jane is a high-spirited girl and she picked up by two lechers who are only interested in the one thing. Ginette loves singing but she didn’t let her friends know that she is singing Italian songs in a second-rate theatre, so she tries to escape. Rita is engaged to a man who appears more concerned with pleasing his parents than caring about her. Jacqualine, demurely permits herself to be followed everywhere by a motorcyclist.

Les Bonnes Femmes had extremely dark angles and undertones. The non-conformity of the storyline compared to traditional cinema was demonstrated through a promiscuous cast, gendered role reversals, and dramatic irony. The dramatic irony stems from the blossoming relationship between Jacqueline and the man on the motorcycle as we have uneasy feeling towards his character from get-go. Below I will show a part which I retrieved from Les Bonnes Femmes.

Unlike the controlled studio sound stage and back lot shooting that characterized Hollywood filmmaking during this era, the French New Wave directors were dedicated to shooting in natural locations and using natural lighting as much as possible. Sound was also recorded live on the scene, which was unusual during this era. In this film we can see that the director shoot in the natural locations such as on the street and the natural lighting so the scene become quite dark sometimes.

One notable technique to emerge from the French New Wave was the jump cut, in which two discontinuous images are juxtaposed. While jumps cuts are regularly used in film and television editing today, at the time, they were very jarring to audiences, who were used to a smooth flow of images onscreen, rather than to editing that calls attention to itself. We can see there was a jump cut when Jane and Jacqueline with the two lechers in the restaurant then suddenly jump to the party.

Besides, there has stronger female character found in Les Bonnes Femmes. We can see that the modern life of four shopgirls with everyday life complications. The cast is constructed of multiple women who have very contrasting personalities. Rita is engaged to a young suitor with delusions that he is “the one”, Jane is suspiciously care-free in her actions hiding the emptiness of her life, Ginette moonlights at a nightclub behind the other girls back, and Jacqueline who is the timid and meek voice of reason is lured into the seductive mystery man's arms unconsciously and illogically. All of the women have big dreams lifting them higher than their current mediocre lives.


Pramaggiore & Wallis (March, 2011). ‘Breaking the rules: The French New Wave and its Influence’, Film: A Critical Introduction 3rd Edition, USA & Canada. Allyn & Bacon: pp.215-217.

Hayward, Susan (2006) ‘French New Wave/ Nouvelle Vague’, Cinema Studies: The Key Concepts 3rd Edition, Oxon, Routledge: pp. 165-170.

Kolker, Robert (2001) ‘Chapter 5: The Stories Told by Film’, Film Form, and Culture, New York, McGraw-Hill: pp. 199-200.

Claude Chabrol (Director & Producer). 1960. Les Bonnes Femmes. France.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=96d3scgmluA&feature=share

Analysis on selected movie-Que la Bête Meure

Que la Bête Meure

Film poster. Que la Bête Meure (Claude Chabrol,1969).
Retrieved from http://movieposters.2038.net/movieid-640

Que la Bête Meure is a film directed by Claude Chabrol in year 1969. There is some element in this film which included the tense psychological thriller.

This story is starting with the male protagonist, Charles, when his young son died in a hit-and-run car accident, he is determined to find out the killer. Obsessed with avenging his son's death, he carefully records his thoughts in a diary. He travels to Paris and meets the female protagonist, Helene Lanson, who is a prime witness to the accident. After they start up a love affair, he discovers that the driver of the car was her brother-in-law, Paul Decourt. Paul also owns the auto repair shop that fixed up the car after the accident. Charles believes that Paul is the killer, so that he is friends with his son, Phillipe Decourt. As it happens, Phillipe also wants Paul dead for his own reasons. Charles manages to get invited to the family's seaside home in Brittany in order to finally get his revenge, but things don't work out according to plan.

In this movie, we found that there have some scene is using the most extreme form of elliptical editing which is jump cut in the movie. The montage of disjointed shots distances and disorientates the viewer as there is an ellipsis in time and place in between jump cuts. This challenges the naturalization, fragments the image and creates an uneasy sense of narrative progression. The jump cut involves the removal of whole parts of sequences, providing a sense of discontinuity and discordance.

Below there is the short clips that show the jump cut in the film.

Moreover, in the film we also can see many long take. Long takes are used commonly in French New Wave film to create an uninterrupted shot as in order to create an attraction among audience to let them having expectation on something.

 Figure 1.0

  Figure 1.1                                    

In addition, the setting of this film movement usually shoots on real or natural locations; therefore the films usually had a casual and natural look due to the choice of location filming in and around Paris. In this film, we know that some of the place is Quimper that shows in the film.

Instead of that, there are still many location setting in the film such as living room, restaurant, street, sleeping room and near by the sea.

Figure 2.1: Charles and Helen meet and start know each other.

Figure 2.2: Charles having dinner with Helen’s family and start planning his revenge.

Besides that, the stronger female character we also can see it from Helen, she is always take serious with Charles when they are in love. Charles is persuading her to meet with her family and she also agrees with that. She is believe to Charles is love her and although Charles is slapping her just because of the teddy bear. In the end, Helen is cry after she is read out the whole letter written by Charles. That mean, she is really love the male protagonist Charles although in the end Charles was leaving.

On the other hand, this film also is an anti-authoritarian style of film. It is because Charles takes advantage of Helen to revenge. In the film show that he actually is a hypocrisy, jealousy and use unscrupulous divisive tactics in the process of revenges. The evil inside Charles’s heart can compare with the driver who bumps against his son.


David Bordwell, Kristin Thompson. (2008). "The French New Wave (1959-1964)". Film Art.The McGraw Companies: pp 461-463

Robert Kolker .(2005). "The French New Wave". Film, Form & Culture Third Edition. The HIL Publishing Compay:pp 274-279