My blog has moved and changed name to DESIGN SODA, I’d love it if you followed along with my new content there.
With the release last month of Claude Chabrol’s Le Beau Serge, the first feature film of the French New Wave, on UK DVD for the first time, I have been passing my gaze back through the cinematic archive of La Nouvelle Vague and marvelling at how stylistically it epitomizes the end note in style for me. Since I saw my first Godard film at the BFI when I was 17 the French New Wave has been my favourite muse. It is my most formative style reference point, my manifesto for cool, even my blog address is homage. Le Mepris was the first place I saw the island on which I got married, New Wave my first ever really expensive coffee table book, it is neither us nor our parents you will find a wedding picture of in the upstairs hallway but Godard & Karina.
In the early black and white films I love the playful, inventive, improvisational originality, the way that the streets of Paris became film sets, the stylistics and the jazz.
In the later films (especially those of Godard) I love the primary colours, the politics, their pop-art-plus – the way the screen looks like moving pop art, the self referential in-jokes and the dynamic brutalism.
From Belmondo so charmed with himself in A Bout de Souffle to his absurd suicide finale in Pierrrot le Fou face painted blue, dynamite wrapped around his head, every moment on screen is a lesson in male cool.
Borstal boys on fairground rides, murder, menage a trois, racing through the Louvre, fugitives smoking Gitanes, left bank communism –
Directors, actors, cinematographers, Paris, I salute you all!
There are so few true auteurs these days with definable vision, Tarrantino is one exception (his production company Bande a Part an homage to Godard). French New Wave films are inescapably beautiful, the ultimate in wallpaper viewing, whilst remaining totally authentic and uncontrived.
They force you to think hard about deeper questions, they suggest but never dictate, they are funny, sometimes whimsical, they reference high culture, they are a reality that shows its seams. And Anna Karina, sigh, Chanel may have found her but Godard made her. The adopted French poster girl of 60’s irony, fragility, poise and playfulness. I know they said ‘And God Created Woman’ in relation to Bardot but Karina has the edge for me:
To choose my favourite films of the French New Wave feels a bit like choosing between children for me, but here is my potted history:
My Top 10 Films of The French New Wave:
- Pierrot le Fou (Godard, 1965)
- Bande a Part (Godard, 1964)
- 400 Blows (Truffaut, 1959)
- Le Signe du Lion (Rohmer, 1959)
- Jules et Jim (Truffaut, 1962)
- Paris Nous Appartient (Rivette, 1961)
- A Bout de Soufflé (Godard, 1960)
- Les Amants (Malle, 1958)
- Les Bonne Femmes (Chabrol, 1960)
- Cleo de 5 a 7 (Varda, 1962)