What is French New Wave Cinema?


French New Wave, of La Nouvelle Vague, as it is known in French, was cinema movement in the late 1950’s and 60’s that went on to influence the art up until the present day, with modern directors such as Quentin Tarantino and Wes Anderson citing the movement as an influence on their own film making. French New Wave was inspired by the Italian Neo Realist movement of the 40s and 50s.

French New Wave Featured
French New Wave Movies – image by indiewire.com

How French New Wave Began- Cahiers du Cinema

The French New Wave began through the film journal Cahiers du Cinema, a film publication set up by film theorist Andre Bazin, among other film critics such as Francois Truffaut, Jean- Luc Godard, Eric Rhomer, Claude Chabrol and Jacque Rivette.

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Cahiers du Cinema – image by telerama.fr

Andre Bazin and Auteur Theory

Andre Bazin was the pioneer of La politique des auteurs, or the politics of the author, later simplified of auteur theory; stating that a film director should be an author, a creative and not commanded by a studio, a wage or a convention. They rejected classic Hollywood linear narrative films, as well as French linear narrative traditions as well.

What is French New Wave Cinema?
La politique des auteurs by Andre Bazin – image by goodreads.com

French New Wave Inspiration and Trends

As a reaction to the idea of a film director as an author, the contributors of the Cahiers du Cinema, decided to direct their own films. Rejecting the French traditions of narrative cinema, they were inspired by Italian Neo-Realism and classical Hollywood cinema, praising such film makers of Alfred Hitchcock, John Ford and Orson Welles, who they classed as auteurs.

nouvelle vague
image by blogger.com

As a nod to Italian Neo-realism and as a way to make films on a budget, French New Wave films were shot quickly, on location and often improvised. French New Wave films are recognised for their use of long tracking shots, jump cuts and shots that break the cinematic 180 degree rule. At the time this style was ground-breaking.

Key French New Wave Films

  • A Bout de Souffle (Breathless, 1960) Jean-Luc Godard
A Bout de Souffle – image by play.google.com
  • Jules et Jim (Jules and Jim, 1962) Francois Truffaut
  • Bande a Part (Band of Outlaws, 1964) Jean-Luc Godard
  • Les Quatre Cents Coups (The 400 Blows, 1959) Francois Truffaut
Les Quatre Cents Coups – image by festival-cannes.com

French New Wave In Modern Cinema

Many of the modern cinema’s greatest directors cite French New Wave as an influence such as: Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese and Woody Allen.

Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese and Woody Allen – image by pinterest.com


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