Adjunto avui el meu darrer treball pel curs de cinematografia que acaba aquest mes de març:
THE FRENCH NEW WAVE
The new wave was originated in Paris in the late fifties and was very successful in the sixties. Most of his members have been directing for a long time and one of them at least, Jean Luc Godard, is still active. There are many factors which can explain its origin and its success, but we are going to talk only of a few of them, those which I consider more relevant: the fact that a new kind of public was springing up, the crisis of the traditional French cinema and the arising of a cinematographical culture, which has its roots in Cahiers du cinema.
In this time France was living dramatic changes: political, the birth of the fifth republic, and also social. The economical prosperity of the sixties was coming and people began to see movies in a different way. Their point of view was surely more hedonist and less committed to old moral values. The young filmmakers were able to connect whit this public. In this sense, a film like A bout de soufflé, was very important. His main player, Jean Paul Belmondo was destined to become the most important male star of French cinema in the following years. It is interesting to contrast Michel Poiccard with the roles played by Jean Gabin, who used to be formerly the most important French actor. Gabin was usually a working class hero, something like a model for the proletarian classes who used to be maybe the biggest part of the cinematographical audience. Poiccard is a pure individualist and he does not seem to have family or be connected to any social background. Both have a romantic side, ( I remember for instance, Pepe le Moko, from Julien Duvivier where Gabin lets himself to be shot by the police, in order to see once more the woman, he loved). Michel is deeply in love with Patricia but the romanticism of A bout de soufflé looks like more nihilistic. Love is betrayed and at the end, Poiccard seems to be moved only by his lust of death. Pepe dies thinking that love makes life valuable, whereas Michael is only exhausted and deceived. But there are still more important changes concerning woman’s role. Although, the women’s lib has not really yet begun, in films like Jules et Jim or Une femme est une femme we find a new kind of woman, more active, more independent and absolutely self-aware. Jean Seberg, Patricia in a bout de soufflé, belongs to this kind of woman. She tries to master her own life and although maybe he loves Michel, she prefers to be her own mistress and to be responsible of her decisions, and for this reason she chose to betray her lover, in order to preserve her independence. Nonetheless, I think that the roles played by Ana Karina are the best examples of this new attitude. So, in Une femme est une femme, she makes the decision of having a child, against the opinion of her husband. Indeed, independence is also the main subject of Vivre sa vie, the history of a woman fighting for being able to control her own life.
These young people akin to the figures played by Belmondo or Karina were not more interested in the old stories, which took their parents to the movies. There was then a crisis of the tradition of quality, which distinguished French cinema. This kind of cinema was getting old and losing its audience. It would be unfair to forget that the critics of Cahiers were active fighters against the old style of making movies. Its reviews were often ruthless with the directors, which they disliked and they did not like any of the directors who made psychological realism. The critics of Cahiers blamed these directors for their fake realism. Its films were full of literary conventions; their model was not reality, but a literature which was completely outdated. As Truffaut said, “they are always remaking Madame Bovary”
Their failure gave a chance to young people, new directors who not only were able to find a new public but also of making films in a very cheap way. No producer had to risk a great deal of money and sometimes the gain was amazing.
But maybe the most important fact to grasp the meaning of the new wave is its roots in critical activity and theory. The most significant directors were, as we have already said, critics in Cahiers du Cinema. But they were not only satisfied with making reviews of the last movies. They claimed that cinema was an art and they were eager to demonstrate that cinema could not be seen only as an entertainment; it was a meaningful part of contemporary culture; maybe the most important part. In fact, the critical adversaries of these new directors wrote in another magazine, Positif, which was usually opposed to the views opposed in Cahiers, and sometimes they regretted that the cinematographical culture of their adversaries was certainly wide, but also the only one that they had. That caused, according to their point of view, the substitution of thought by narrative style and encouraged intellectual indifference in young people. I think that this common past is maybe the most important feature which distinguishes the new wave. When I remember the films of Truffaut, Godard, Resnais or Rohmer, I think that they are quite different in several ways, but in its beginnings their films were always full of citations. The first films of Godard contain a great deal of examples. I can remember, for instance, the ending of A bout de soufflé. The long moving shot of Michel running to his death comes directly from an ancient film of Raoul Walsh (The roaring twenties, 1939) and Belmondo uses to imitate Bogart in the film. A femme est une femme is an homage to American musical of the fifties and the character played by Ana Karina says that she would like being in a film with Cyd Charisse and Gene Kelly. Even, we can find a self-quotation, when Belmondo leaves a scene to see A bout de soufflé in tv. In Vivre sa vie, an ancient film is used like scholars utilize bibliography. We see the protagonist going to the movie and seeing the Jean of Arc’s passion shot by Dreyer. Godard edits the shots of Dreyer mixing them with close-ups of Ana Karina and the old images of Dreyer acquire a new meaning, they help us to understand how Nana feels and they introduce the subject of death, anticipating what will be the fate of the main character.
But surely the most important point is in relation to the notion of author, which had been previously defined by André Bazin, the intellectual and spiritual leader of Cahiers. The young Cahier´s critics not only aspired to make movies, but to become authors, the only way to be really artists. This was connected to the purpose of making cinema independent of Literature. In fact, this was the core of the negative critiques of the films qualified as psychological realists; films were the only creative task belonged to the screenwriter and the director simply illustrated a previous work without adding anything of his own. The targets of these reproaches were not only people like Claude Autant- Lara, but also directors like Bllly Wilder, William Wyler or David Lean, whose works were normally bad received in Cahiers, whereas they preferred, for instance, Howard Hawks, a film-maker able to do three, more or less different films, with the same story
; convinced that the audience is interested in characters not in stories
. Hawks and Hitchcock were the paradigm of what it means to be an author. People who has made reality in a way the ideal conceived by A. Astruc “le camera-stylo”
; creators of their own world, filmmakers defined by a personal style. The idea shared by these young critics was that we have to watch a Hitchcock’s film like we read a Faulkner’s novel. Its main aim was to become themselves an author of this kind, creating a category of films who makes people say, I have seen a Truffaut’s or Godard’s, not just a film about an abandoned child (les quatrecents coups) or a film about an antisocial outsider (a bout de soufflé)
Owing to their common past as critics in Cahiers, this group presented an interest in cinematographical form in itself, which could be maybe the most important difference between this movement and Italian surrealism, more concerned with philosophical or social questions, or the English new wave, whose roots were also concerned with social aims. A consequence of this is that often the new wave films are politically ambiguous, how they had been their reviews in the fifties. Forty years after it is still very difficult to grasp where is the political position of Jean Luc Godard, when is shooting a film like le petit soldat (1960), whose point of view seems sympathetic to his main character that is a right-wing terrorist (eight years later Godard will become Maoist). There are several common features in their ways of film making which can be explained by the cinema, that they had previously seen, for instance, their tendency to locate their shots in natural places (Even, when they had to shot a scene in a room, they opted for real rooms and refused the possibility of working in studio) has to be attributed to the influence upon them of Rosellini. But other features would be more original and in fact they inspired filmmakers like Scorsese. One of these was the use of light cameras, which allows long moving shots, like that one which shows Belmondo and Seberg walking across the Champ Elysées in the beginning of the first Godard’s film. But they are two questions that according to my point of view are the most interesting and could be considered as revolutionaries:
· Their will to play with the traditional syntactical forms of cinematographic langague. This point is evident in some films of Godard. So, in a bout de soufflé, he edits in a new and radical way, uninterested in giving the sensation of continuity which was the aim of the task performed by traditional editors. In Godard’s way every shot becomes independent and powerful and the transitional moments disappear completely. Something very similar could be found in Une femme est une femme, but here Godard plays with the editing of sound, to make a film without music and dancing, but which can be recognised as a musical through the way in which sound is edited.
· Dialogue seems to have a not narrative function. It does not advance the story. Their only function is to give life to the characters. Something very similar could be said about the gags, which are not usually funny but have an aspect that Labarthe defined rightly as documentative.
Forty years after, these films are still young and fresh and I think that is surely due to the fact of its nonconformism; his will to break the tradition (respect to the standard forms) received. From the sixties on their spirit has been shared for a great number of young directors and for most of the people who felt themselves interested in movies.
A c ertain tendecy in frenh cinema
Rio Bravo (1959), El Dorado (19669, Rio Lobo (1970)
McBride, Joseph, Hawks on Hawks. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988. This claim could also be a good definition of a film like Une femme est une femme.
Peter Graham, (ed.) The new Wave, BFI, 1968
Une femme est une femme de Jean Luc Godard by A: Labarthe. From La nouvelle vague (petite bibliothéque du Cahiers du Cinéma, Paris, 1999)
Etiquetes de comentaris: Belmondo, cine, Godard, Hawks, Hitchcock, Karina, Truffaut