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

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An enduring legacy of the French New-Wave movement was the inspiration it provided for similar movements in other countries. In America, the “movie brat” generation of filmmakers that emerged in the late 1960’s and 70’s, was profoundly influenced by the storytelling techniques pioneered by the Novelle-Vague directors. In Europe too, young directors in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Germany, and elsewhere, were motivated to break with the past and tell their own stories. Even further afield, in countries such as Japan, Brazil, and Canada, similar movements prospered for a while.

In France the success of the Nouvelle Vague continued to open doors for new directors. Barbet Schroeder (More (1969)) Jean Eustache (La Maman et La Putain (1973)), Andre Techine (Paulina s’en Va (1975)), and Philippe Garrel (L’Enfant Secret (1979), made up part of what could be considered a post-New-Wave second wave. They, and other directors like Jean-Claude Biette, Claude Guiguet, and Paul Vecchiali, began, like their predecessors, writing for Cahiers du Cinéma, before turning to filmmaking themselves.

La Belle Noiseuse [1991] .
In the 1980’s a new generation of young directors emerged in France. Dubbed by the media the "New New Wave," the three main figures in the group, Jean-Jacques Beineix, Luc Besson and Leos Carax, were quick to distance themselves from the earlier movement, expressing anti-New-Wave sentiments in interviews. Their films, which included the hits Diva (Beineix (1980), Subway (Besson (1985), Betty Blue (Beiniex (1986), The Big Blue (Besson (1988), and Les Amants du Pont-Neuf (Carax (1991), were criticized for favouring style over substance. Their style of filmmaking became known as the “cinema du look,” and, although popular, was felt by many to offer little more than slick visuals and alluring stars.

The tragic early death of Francois Truffaut in 1984 brought an end to the career of the best known and best loved of the French New-Wave directors. His later work, although varied and not always successful, included such highlights as the Oscar-winning Day for Night (1973), the poetic La Chambre Verte (The Green Room) (1978), and Le Dernier Metro (The Last Metro) (1980), a story of the Resistance which was a critical and box- office triumph in France. Apart from his work, Truffaut himself has become an icon and inspiration for impassioned, idealistic young directors, determined to remake cinema on their own terms.

As for his Nouvelle-Vague contemporaries, they continue making waves in the twenty-first century. Godard, Chabrol, Rohmer, Rivette, Varda, Resnais, Marker, and others associated with the movement, are all now auteurs in their own right with an international following. Their prolific output continues to challenge audiences and expand the boundaries of cinematic expression. Retrospectives of their work and new prints of New Wave classics continue to keep alive a cultural revolution that produced some of the greatest films ever made and changed the course of cinema history.

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