The French New Wave or the nouvelle vague was a movement driven by Francois Truffaut and fellow contributors to the influential Cahiers du Cinema. It introduced a film-making style that sought to break free from the confining formulas that had begun to dominate French cinema culture. The result was an approach to film as a medium that could operate almost without rules — as Jean-Luc Godard is famously quoted: ‘I believe in a beginning, a middle and an end but not necessarily in that order’.
The work of Claude Chabrol, Eric Rohmer and Alain Resnais are all intrinsically linked with this new genre. However, it is the work of Jean-Luc Godard, who for so many UK cinema goers, is synonymous with both the best (and sometimes the worst) of the nouvelle vague.
At its best, French cinema during the 60s presented a liberating, dynamic voice, the freedom of editing, camera and scenario created an urgency and freshness. This can be seen in classics such as À Bout de Souffle; with Jean-Paul Belomondo and Jean Seberg as the ultimate, to die for, film noir lovers in a pure, beautifully shot and observed film Paris.
While the iconoclastic approach of the À Bout de Souffle perfectly captures the best of the period, Alphaville goes a step further, reinventing film noir and mixing the genre with science fiction to create an atmosphere of alienation and dehumanised fear.
Une Femme est Une Femme is a further subversion of the American theme, starring Anna Karina and Jean-Paul Belmondo, it takes the musicals of MGM as a starting point before tripping up the conventions in a glorious technicolor mix, creating something that is both bold, brash and equally vulnerable.