Introduction to the French New Wave (Nouvelle Vague)
Annotation:Probably the most complete online English language source of film criticism. Search for articles on the films and directors of the French New Wave.
Annotation: "Complete guide to the French New Wave and new wave cinema from around the world." Articles, film guides, etc. An exhaustive site.
Annotation:1959. Directed by Alain Resnais. An intense love affair between a French actress and a Japanese architect in postwar Hiroshima leads to painful revelations about past love and wartime suffering. A highly original and visually stunning masterwork from Resnais.
Annotation:The 400 Blows. 1959. Directed by Francois Truffaut. This smash hit of the 1959 Cannes Film Festival may not have technically been the first New Wave movie, but it was the first to gain widespread attention and is often cited as the real beginning of the Nouvelle Vague. Truffaut drew on inspiration from his own troubled childhood for this classic story of youthful rebellion.
Annotation:Breathless. 1960. Directed by Jean-Luc Godard. In one of the most audacious directorial debuts in film history, Godard redefines the rules of cinematic storytelling in this thrilling homage to American gangster flicks which made a star of Jean-Paul Belmondo and continues to influence film and fashion.
Annotation:Shoot the Piano Player. 1960. Directed by Francois Truffaut. Comedy and tragedy go hand in hand in Truffaut’s eloquent and playful homage to Film Noir. In the lead role Charles Aznavour is brilliant as Charlie, the washed up pianist, who is forced to face up to the past he has tried to forget, when his gangster brother comes to the bar where he works one night.
Annotation:The Good Girls. 1960. Directed by Claude Chabrol. New Wave realism meets Hitchcockian suspense in this compelling drama chronicling the lives and loves of four Parisian shop girls over the course of several days. The unsentimental portrayal of contemporary young women proved too distressing for some and the film provoked a backlash which saw Chabrol retreat into more escapist material until the late 60s.
Annotation:1961. Directed by Jacques Demy. Jacques Demy’s auspicious debut is “a musical without music” set in the port city of Nantes, and staring Anouk Aimee as the title character, a cabaret singer awaiting the return of her long-absent lover from overseas. Meanwhile she is being courted by a childhood friend and an American sailor.
Annotation:Last Year at Marienbad. 1961. Directed by Alain Resnais. A complex cinematic mystery story that breaks all the rules of traditional narrative film-making. The critics are still arguing about what it all means.
Annotation:Cleo from 5 to 7. 1962. Directed by Agnes Varda. Corinne Marchand plays Cleo, a young woman adrift in the streets of Paris, who suddenly realises she might be about to lose everything. Agnes Varda uses cinema-verite techniques to film a very human drama in one of the key films of the New Wave.
Annotation:Jules and Jim. 1962. Directed by Francois Truffaut. Truffaut’s enduring masterpiece is a captivating story of love and friendship between three people over the course of twenty-five years. A stylistically thrilling work of cinema, brimming with charm, full of innovative storytelling techniques, and running the gamut of emotions, from joie de vivre to tragedy.
Annotation:The Pier. 1962. Directed by Chris Marker. In a post-apocalyptical world a man is chosen to undergo a time-travel experiment by virtue of his one enduring childhood memory: a woman’s face at the end of the pier at Orly airport. Once seen this unique film is never forgotten. The inspiration for Terry Gilliam's Twelve Monkeys.
Annotation:My Life to Live. 1962. Directed by Jean-Luc Godard. Twelve Brechtian tableaux chronicle the life and death of a young woman, beginning as a cinema verite documentary and ending as a Monogram style B movie. A fierce critique of consumerism in which people become just another commodity to be bought and sold.
Annotation:Contempt. 1963. Directed by Jean-Luc Godard. Brigitte Bardot gives one of her best performances in Godard’s emotionally raw account of a marital break up set against the intrigues of the international film industry. With its beautiful soundtrack by Georges Delarue, and sumptuous Mediterranean colours, it has the weight and resonance of classical tragedy.
Annotation:The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. 1964. Directed Jacques Demy. A wistfully melancholic love story in which every line of dialogue is sung.
Annotation:Band of Outlaws. 1964. Directed by Jean-Luc Godard. Anna Karina teams up with a couple of petty crooks played by Sami Frey and Claude Brasseur in this freewheeling crime caper thriller set in and around the streets of Paris. This is one of Godard’s most playful movies, full of off the cuff invention and memorable set pieces.
Annotation:1965. Directed by Jean-Luc Godard. Science-fiction and film noir collide in the bizarre city of Alphaville where free thought and individualist concepts like love, poetry, and emotion have been eliminated. Can secret agent Lemmy Caution fulfil his mission to kill Professor Von Braun and destroy the evil computer Alpha 60?
Annotation:1965. Directed by Jean-Luc Godard. One of Godard’s greatest achievements, this pulp-noir anti-thriller has been described as cinematic Cubism Shot in dazzling primary colours and loaded with references to literature, painting, other movies and pop culture, Pierrot Le Fou is, amongst other things, about the struggles of the artist, Vietnam, and the death of romance.
Annotation:My Night With Maud. 1969. Directed by Eric Rohmer. A brilliantly insightful and sublime meditation on adult indiscretions. Jean-Louis Trintignant plays a chaste engineer who believes he has found his perfect woman, yet finds his certainty challenged while accidentally spending a night with the intelligent and seductive Maud.
Annotation:The Butcher. 1970. Directed by Claude Chabrol. A village schoolteacher begins to suspect that her close friend, the local butcher, might enjoy carving up more than steak and porkchops. Widely considered Chabrol's greatest work, this Hitchcock-inspired thriller is rich in both authentic atmosphere and nerve-jangling suspense.
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The label "New Wave" appeared in a published investigation regarding social phenomena among the postwar generation ("La Nouvelle Vague: portraits de la jeunesse [The New Wave: Portraits of Youth]"). The term became associated with a loose collective of intellectual film critics tied to the journal Cahiers du Cinema, who advocated for a breaking away from the "tyranny of narrative" in favor of a new form of film language rooted in mise-en-scène, literally, "placing in the scene" (favoring the reality of what is filmed over manipulation via editing), as well as the long take and deep composition. The filmmakers who emerged from this milieu--Truffaut, Godard, Chabrol, Rivette, Rohmer; and, independently, Varda, Resnais, Demy, Marker, and others--weren't aiming for mainstream success, although many of their films became popular worldwide, critically acclaimed, and incalculably influential for subsequent generations of filmmakers.