Le Nouvelle Vague
November 8, 2007
So there’s these bratty French kids that grow up to be bratty French young adults, but they love Le Cinema, they watch everything they can, and they particularly like all this low budget neo-realism stuff coming from Italy. They also admire certain American directors like Orson Welles and John Ford and Alfred Hitchcock. Somehow this group of bratty abandoned youth all get jobs writing for this new magazine called Les Cahiers du Cinema (“the cinema papers”). They used their status as writers and critics to complain about all the garbage that French filmmakers were churning out. One in particular, Francois Truffaut, wrote an essay called “A Certain Tendency in French Cinema” where he complained about Le Cinema du Papa (“the father’s cinema”) and how all the movies were overblown historical epics with no real personality or vision, just calculated to make a lot of money. He wanted to see more personal films like those of Welles, Hitchcock, De Sica, Bergman, and Fellini, who he considered to be “Auteurs”.
According to Truffaut’s auteur (that’s french for “author”) theory, certain directors are the authors, the main creative force behind their work. Auteurs have a personal vision, often write their own scripts, have creative control over the whole project, and have a unique style. Hired directors, on the other hand, have a conformed vision, are hired after the script is already written, only partial control over the project (the producer can dictate changes), and have a generic style. Granted, there are some problems with this theory. What about Tim Burton. Unique style, sure, but doesn’t write his own scripts, and while he was fresh and inventive in his earlier years, has tended to keep doing the same thing over and over. Or what about Stephen Soderberg? He doesn’t necessarily have a set “style.” Every film of his is different, not all are great, but he’s always trying new things and taking chances.
Anyway, in 1959, Truffaut and a few of his writer friends took matters into their own hands and started making films themselves. This started what is now known as Le Nouvelle Vague, or the French New Wave.
First, you’ll want to check out this little documentary made by some french student. Not the best edited thing, but pretty informative.