Film Studies: Task 1


French New Wave

Film Studies Task 1 – Criteria 2.1

French new wave is a term used to describe a specific type of film making that dates back to the late 1950’s and early 60’s. The idea of French new wave all began with an article in Cahiers du Cinema, a French magazine that focused on film. In 1954, Francois Truffaut wrote a controversial piece in the magazine entitled ‘A Certain Tendency in French Cinema’, in this article Truffaut famously stated that ‘French cinema is dead’, calling it too ‘script lead’ and ‘literary’. Truffaut’s wanted to point out that cinema was too similar to other art forms and not it’s own, ‘why not simply read a book or watch a play if you want people just to talk?’ encapsulates his point. This article would go on to cause controversy through out the world of film making. After this article, Francois Truffaut went on to become a film director himself, he teamed up with fellow french film makers Andre Bazin and Jean-Luc Godard, and through a combination of long takes, frequent jump cuts and non-linear narratives they went on to create an entirely new genre of film that would influence film making for decades. Truffaut, Bazin and Godard did not use artificial lights, professional actors or scripts, which gave french new wave a fluid and natural feel to their films. New, never before seen techniques were used in the films, voice overs were used to explain what was happening and characters often broke the fourth wall and spoke directly to the camera which almost forced the audience to realise this was a new type of film, different to anything they had seen before.

As a class, we were split in to small groups and told to make a short film that showcased techniques used in French new wave. To give us some ideas, we watched some clips one of the most well-known French new wave films, ‘Breathless’ or ‘A Bout de Souffle’ (shown below).

The natural aspect of French new wave was a very important part of this kind of film making so we purposly did not write a script or even think too in depth about a story. My group, consisting of Craig, Vicky, Pete and Joey used long, un-interupted shots and a voice over when we filmed our attempt. We also broke the fourth wall, frequently swapped clothes and moved positions in order to deliberately break continuity. It was good fun experimenting with different methods of film making like this. Our video is shown below.

French new wave is still used today and aspects of french new wave continue to make an appearance in films, proving that Francois Truffaut and French new wave was an influential and very important part of cinematic history.