All About the French New Wave (compiled from the work of Simon Hitchman) 1940 1944: The Occupation


Zazie, Lola, Catherine and Les Bonnes Femmes



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Zazie, Lola, Catherine and Les Bonnes Femmes




Les Bonnes Femmes [1960]
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The start of the 1960’s saw the release of a diverse collection of New-Wave films all featuring female characters at their centre. Typically unpredictable, Louis Malle followed Les Amants with Zazie Dans Le Metro (1960), a lively, surreal farce shot in colour. Adapted from a novel by Raymond Queneau, the story follows an eleven year old girl and her eccentric uncle on a mad cap chase around Paris.




Jules Et Jim [1961]
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Claude Chabrol also reacted against his previous work with Les Bonnes Femmes (1960), an unusual mix of Hitchockian thriller and documentary realism, examining the ups and downs in the lives of four shop girls. The film details their hopeful but ultimately doomed attempts at finding romance.

Jacque Demy’s debut feature Lola (1961), set in the seaside town of Nantes, drew on musicals, fairytales, and the golden age of Hollywood for its inspiration; furthermore, it set the tone for all his subsequent pictures. Featuring Anouk Aimee in the title role, this often downbeat tale of lost love and the machinations of fate was told with a joie de vivre that would become characteristic of Demy’s unique cinematic oeuvre.

That same year, Francois Truffaut was planning Jules et Jim the story of two friends who both fall in love with the free-spirited but capricious Catherine. He had initially come across the semi-autobiographical book by Henri-Pierre Roche by chance in a second hand bookshop, had fallen in love with it, and had considered making it his first feature. However, realizing how difficult it would be to get right, he put it to one side until he had more experience under his belt. Now he had the experience and used it to create what would become one of the most famous and popular films of the French New Wave.

Jules et Jim (1961) was a stylistic tour de force, incorporating newsreel footage, photographic stills, freeze frames, voice over narration, and a variety of fluid moving shots executed to perfection by cameraman Raoul Coutard. Despite this, Truffaut stayed remarkably faithful to the source material. The unconventional love triangle at the centre of the story and the determination of Catherine (Jeanne Moreau) to find sexual satisfaction outside of society’s conventions caused much controversy at the time of the film’s release but did nothing to hinder the film’s success.

 



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