A History of the French New Wave Cinema (Wisconsin Studies in Film)
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The French New Wave cinema is arguably the most fascinating of all film movements, famous for its exuberance, daring, and avant-garde techniques. A History of the French New Wave Cinema offers a fresh look at the social, economic, and aesthetic mechanisms that shaped French film in the 1950s, as well as detailed studies of the most important New Wave movies of the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Richard Neupert first tracks the precursors to New Wave cinema, showing how they provided blueprints for those who would follow. He then demonstrates that it was a core group of critics-turned-directors from the magazine Cahiers du Cinéma—especially François Truffaut, Claude Chabrol, and Jean-Luc Godard—who really revealed that filmmaking was changing forever. Later, their cohorts Eric Rohmer, Jacques Rivette, Jacques Doniol-Valcroze, and Pierre Kast continued in their own unique ways to expand the range and depth of the New Wave.
In an exciting new chapter, Neupert explores the subgroup of French film practice known as the Left Bank Group, which included directors such as Alain Resnais and Agnès Varda. With the addition of this new material and an updated conclusion, Neupert presents a comprehensive review of the stunning variety of movies to come out of this important era in filmmaking.
Setting Transformations in demand deeply affected the nature of the cinema’s clientele, as an ever more elite audience comprised the most active moviegoers, but these changes also were part of shifts in the larger cultural sphere of 1950s France. The lively and occasionally vicious aesthetic debates in film circles were part of a general rethinking of the connections between various arts, critical models, and political commitments. World War II had demonstrated on many levels that aesthetics,
cultural criticism as a significant factor in French intellectual and political life helped in turn fuel “French Theory” as an up-and-coming international export. In the media, the 1950s saw a definitive breakdown of conventional divisions between high and low cultural products and the ways they were interpreted. One striking development was the emergence of mass circulation weekly magazines, such as Elle (1945), Paris-Match (1949), and L’Express (1953), that replaced smaller, more specialized
thereby strengthening the CNC and eventually helping the New Wave. Under the new plan, Film Aid money to exhibitors was to be reduced over the next two years, with special loans and subsidies still available to small exhibitors of art et essai films or in tiny rural markets. The biggest change was to drop the notion of guaranteed subsidies based on box-office returns of completed films in favor of low-interest loans, or “advances on receipts,” to producers, which had to be paid back before the
recovering her stalled Peugeot. In the first shot, fifty-seven seconds in duration, Malle sets up a gag worthy of Jacques Tati. The camera is placed in the shop, with a man crouched at the left edge fixing a bicycle wheel, while Bernard’s 2CV pulls up in the background, and Jeanne descends and walks toward the camera and into the garage. Jeanne calls out, asking if anyone is there, and a man shouts, “Present!” She walks into the dark shop and up to the man on the left, facing the camera, as she
clearly defined divine plan to back it all up. 132 Claude Chabrol The complex thematics of Chabrol’s films further challenge critics and spectators alike who attempt to isolate the ideological stance of this “first New Waver.” In fact, one of the more fascinating and troubling aspects of Chabrol’s cinema is that his films do not always fit what critics want to see from the New Wave filmmakers. On the one hand, he is not as humanistic and sentimental as Truffaut or Rohmer; on the other, he is