Film Movements in Cinema: French New Wave

French New Wave, which is also known as French Nouvelle Vague, can be considered as one of the most influential film movements that took place in the history of cinema. The ripples created by this cinematic movement can even be felt today. A group of critics, who wrote for a French film journal called Cahiers du Cinema, created the film movement.

It began as a movement against the traditional path that French Cinema followed, which was more like literature. The French New Wave had the potential to bring a radical change to French cinema.

Few of the leading French movie directors supported the French New Wave at its inception. They include Jacques Demy, Agnes Varda, Alain Resnais, Louis Malle, Jacques Rivette, Eric Rohmer, Claude Chabrol, Jean-Luc Godard, and Francois Truffaut.

These directors have produced hundreds of movies to the French cinema industry and their involvement created a tremendous impact on the success of French New Wave. As a result, many other French directors were influenced by it, which created an ideal platform to deploy the radical change that the French cinema industry required.

How did the French New Wave movement originate?

The manifesto of Alexandre Astuc, The Birth of a New Avant-Garde: The Camera-Stylo can be considered as the starting point of the French New Wave movement. This event took place in 1948. This manifesto outlined several ideas that were explained by Cahiers du cinema and François Truffaut at a later stage.

They argued that the French cinema was similar to the literature, which expresses the same ideas that are depicted in novels and paintings. In other words, the artists at that time used movies to voice their thoughts. Some of the leading film producers, whose names are mentioned above, wanted to change it and this is the birth of the radical movement in the history of French cinema.

Morris Engel, who was an American film director, also contributed a lot towards the French New Wave. He produced a movie called Little Fugitive back in 1953 as he was impressed with the concept of French New Wave. This film clearly shows how the cinema industry in France got International support to carry forward the much-needed move. The French movie producers still appreciate the contribution of Morris Engel.

During the French New Wave movements, particular attention was paid towards the theory called auteur theory. As per auteur theory, the director of a movie is also the producer of it.

Therefore, the directors took the necessary measures to add a personal signature to the film. The directors who lived in France at that time praised the films produced by Jean Vigo and Jean Renoir because they were pioneer figures who fought against this theory.

They were able to create a few memorable films with the help of talented scriptwriters. The participation of scriptwriters helped them to stay away from adding their personal opinions and views into the movies that they created.

Jean Rouch can also be considered as a prominent figure in the French New Wave. The first new wave feature came out at this point. It was delivered along with the movie Le Beau Serge by Chabrol. The trend continued for a few more years as well, where few other movies such as Godard, The 400 Blows, and Truffaut came out with similar features.

These movies became popular in international film industries in an unexpected manner. In fact, it received both financial as well as critical success. This made the entire world talk about the French New Wave. As a result, a perfect platform was created for the movement to flourish. The characters who took part in the movies that were produced during the radical change were not labeled as protagonists. This created a positive impression on their minds as well.

The auteurs also played a tremendous role during the French New Wave movement. That’s because they received excellent support from the youth audiences. Most of the directors who helped the French New Wave were born during the 1930s. On the other hand, a large percentage of them spend their childhood in Paris.

As a result, they have a clear understanding of how people in Paris experience their life. All-night parties, urban professional life, and concentration in fashion were hugely popular among youth who lived in Paris. These skills assisted the directors to support the movement with radical inputs.

The French New Wave was roughly famous between 1958 and 1964. The movement came to an end by 1973. Even though it was finished at that time, the influencing effects existed for several decades.

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The international popularity of French New Wave

As mentioned earlier, many other countries in the world were aware of the French New Wave during the 1950s and 1960s. It created an impact on the International movie industry as well. The big radical change introduced by the French New Wave played a tremendous role in the fact mentioned above.

In fact, the French New Wave was powered up by the social and cultural change that came out after World War II. During this time, some lateral movements also existed in the world. The Free Cinema movement existed in Britain during the 1950s, and the French New Wave even influenced it.

The neighboring countries of France had some like-minded movie producers. They took the initiative to implement the radical change introduced by French New Wave in their countries as well. Most of these young directors were Communist-controlled individuals. As a result, they had the potential to create a tremendous impact on society.

Ivan Passer, Vera Chytilova, and Milos Forman are some of the leading movie producers who lived in Czechoslovakia at that time and took necessary measures to promote French New Wave and its changes to the International film industries. Likewise, few other producers from Poland such as Jerzy Skolimowski and Roman Polanski also contributed towards the global popularity of the movement. Even though these producers wanted to implement the change proposed by the French New Wave, they did not have the required assistance.

As a result, they chose non-professional actors and continued with shooting on location. The French New Wave was popular in Italy as well. Young producers such as Marco Bellocchio and Bernardo Bertolucci were inspired by the radical changes that were introduced by this movement in France. As a result, they promoted those changes within Italy.

French New Wave was not only popular in European countries. It also became a popular film movement in Brazil and Japan. Producers such as Glauber Rocha and Nagisa Oshima made movies devoted to the New Wave as a result of it; this helped them to take international social conventions to a whole new level.

The popularity of the French New Wave in the United States is notable as well. The USA was known as the heartland of commercial cinema. The film industry in the USA had its very own movement, which was led by a filmmaker named John Cassavetes. He gave life to some interesting movies such as Faces in 1968 and Shadows in 1958, which created a tremendous impact on the New Wave movement.

The New Wave movement initiated by John Cassavetes and the French New Wave movement had similarities among them. That must be because John Cassavetes was researching a lot about the French new wave at that time. He must have got some inputs from the French New Wave, which was hugely popular at that moment in time. Therefore, the French New Wave has created an impact on the American movie industry as well.

How the French New Wave Changed Film History Forever

French New Wave took place 50 years back. Now you must be wondering why we should pay our attention towards it. As you can see, the French New Wave has been able to bring some revolutionary changes to the movie industry in France.

Also, it created a tremendous impact on the film industries that existed in many other countries. The result generated by this movement was not only restricted to Europe. It became famous around the world as well and its concepts influenced a lot of directors. These ideas have created the layout for the popularity of alternative cinema, which exist in today’s world.

Without French New Movement, there won’t be Bertolucci, Oshima, and Wenders. On the other hand, advertising, fashion, and music would be done without any major point of reference.

Therefore, the French New Wave was capable of taking the world to a whole new level. It can also be considered as the most revolutionary movement that took place in the movie industry during the 20th Century. Without the New Wave, no film would be open. You would not even like the movies that you can see out there. Therefore, even future generations would appreciate the commitment of the founders of the French New Wave and the influence they created.

Top 20 Best French New Wave Films

Video Essay: How the French New Wave Changed Cinema

Ah, the French New Wave, the film movement on which many young cinephiles cut their teeth. It’s hip, moody black-and-white stories of love, violence, ennui, and social strife provide a perfect entrance into the private-made-public world of cinema. This remarkably detailed video essay both gives us the history of the movement and explains why its disjunctive essence has been so important to today’s filmmakers.


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