Showing posts with label the French New Wave. Show all posts
Showing posts with label the French New Wave. Show all posts

Sunday, October 16, 2011

La Nouvelle Vague - #1

My favorite moment in the history of film so far has to be La Nouvelle Vague, roughly the period from 1958-1962 when a group of young French cinephiles took their passion and redefined what was possible for the medium.  I'd like to make this the beginning of a new series of posts, in the future also covering Italian Neorealism, the American New Wave, and perhaps even the German or Iranian New Wave.
The purpose, highlight the must-see films of the "movement".  If you see gaps or have suggestions, I'd love to hear from you.  It's tricky because a good number of the key works of the Nouvelle Vague are still hard to find stateside.  Here goes:

*Une histoire d'eau - Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard (1958)
Le Beau Serge - Claude Chabrol (1958)
*Operation 'Beton' - Jean-Luc Godard (1958)
*Une vie - Alexandre Astruc (1958)
*Blue jeans - Jacques Rozier (1958)
*Moi, un noir - Jean Rouch (1958)
Les amants - Louis Malle (1958)
The 400 Blows - Francois Truffaut (1959)
Les Cousins - Claude Chabrol (1959)
*Tous les garcons s'appellent Patrick - Jean-Luc Godard (1959)
*La tete contre les murs - Georges Franju (1959)
A double tour - Claude Chabrol (1959)
*Le signe du lion - Eric Rohmer (1959)
Hiroshima Mon Amour - Alain Resnais (1959)
Breathless - Jean-Luc Godard (1960)
Shoot the Piano Player - Francois Truffaut (1960)
*L'eau a la bouche - Jacques Doniol-Valcroze (1960)
Les bonnes femmes - Claude Chabrol (1960)
Eyes Without a Face - Georges Franju (1960)
*Les godelureax - Claude Chabrol (1961)
Lola - Jacques Demy (1961)
Last Year at Marienbad - Alain Resnais (1961)
*La pyramide humaine - Jean Rouch (1961)
*Chronique d'un ete - Jean Rouch (1961)
*La proie pour l'ombre - Alexandre Astruc (1961)
Paris nous appartient - Jacques Rivette (1961)
Une femme est une femme - Jean-Luc Godard (1961)
*Ce soir ou jamais - Michel Deville (1961)
*Description d'un combat - Chris Marker (1961)
*Bonne chance, Charlie - Jean-Louis Richard (1962)
*La punition - Jean Rouch (1962)
Jules and Jim - Francois Truffaut (1962)
*Adieu Philippine - Jacques Rozier (1962)
Vivre Sa Vie - Jean-Luc Godard (1962)
Cleo de 5 a 7 - Agnes Varda (1962)
*Adorable menteuse - Michel Deville (1962)
Antoine et Colette - Francois Truffaut (1962)

*The ones I have marked are ones I still need to see myself.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Some Artists I'd Love to Document (or see a great document on...)

I don't know if you guys do this, but there are several moments in film and music that I'm obsessed with, of which I've yet to find a perfect film document.  Some that come to mind are:

The Beastie Boys circa Paul's Boutique
The French New Wave circa 1955-1962
Talk Talk circa Laughing Stock
John Coltrane circa A Love Supreme
Massive Attack circa Blue Lines
Wim Wenders circa Kings of the Road
Abbas Kiarostami in the late eighties/early nineties
Leos Carax in the mid eighties
Bjorn Borg circa the late seventies
The Smiths in the eighties
Bob Dylan circa the early sixties (pre Don't Look Back)

If I ever foray into documentary filmmaking, these would probably be the first places I'd look into doing something.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Favorites of My Favorites #6 -- Brian De Palma

When Andre Bazin and his gang of French New Wave proteges were first starting out, they were on a mission.  It was a mission to shift the way the world thought about film.  They wanted people to give cinema (a relatively new medium) the same considerations they had long given the other arts (sculpture, literature, music, painting, drama, and architecture). 

To achieve this mission, it was important for them to determine, “what is cinema?”  What makes it unique from all other arts?  What is purely cinematic?   Some of them argued it was the ability to edit that distinguished cinema from the other arts.  Others, like Rohmer, said cinema was the art of “space”.

Though the idea of cinema as a form of art has not prevailed as they once hoped, the term "cinematic" has found itself a place in our vocabulary.  Maybe it means something a little different to each of us, but I would imagine for most that it conjures up images of something that is dazzling, exciting, and visually pleasing.  Something that can’t quite be replicated by any other medium or any other artform. 

Cinematic is the best word I can use to describe the work of Brian De Palma.  His films do more storytelling visually than maybe any we have ever had in the history of the medium.  I find his use of the camera hypnotic and certain of his films absolutely masterful.   He can elongate time in a scene, building moments slowly and patiently in a classical (concentrated) rather than modern (fragmented) way.  In fact, I feel that Quentin Tarantino (a long time fan) probably learned this from De Palma more than anything else (take a look at the way he builds the Gimp scene in Pulp Fiction or the opening scene and the incredible basement tavern scene in Inglourious Basterds). 

In a sense, I would put De Palma and Michael Mann in a similar category.  And probably Martin Scorsese, as well.  They are all very accomplished stylists.  However, I also think they all adhere to the tradition of the “existential hero” rather than that of the “ironic hero”.  Here’s the idea, as articulated from the always wise Paul Schrader:

“And so when the ironic hero supplanted the existential hero, when I first saw "Pulp Fiction," I really thought that was the end of my tradition, which was an existential kind of tradition. The dilemma of the existential hero is, Should I exist? But the dilemma of the ironic hero is, Does it matter? I personally felt that the ironic hero is so thin and unnourishing, and I was wondering how long he could really drive movies commercially before people would just get tired of him and his precious kind of winking at you and jabbing you in the side, his preening detachment.”

Admittedly, I’m a fan of some of the directors that make movies with ironic heroes.  However, one of the real pleasures I derive from Mann, Scorsese, and De Palma, is the way they make me really care about the lives of their characters.  When they die (as they often do), there’s a tragic depth of feeling that the “ironic” school of directors simply don’t provide.

From all accounts, De Palma is still an avid cinephile, and I think that explains some of his enduring modernism.  He is also playful and irreverent, and I think that has allowed him some of his longevity in the business.  I accept that he has his detractors (much of this coming from his desire to blend genres and his combination of somewhat disparate influences – Hitchcock, Film Noir, Argento).   But, ask me to show someone “cinema”, and I’ll probably throw in a De Palma film before almost anything else. 

BRIAN DE PALMA (in preferential order)
1.  Blow Out
2.  Carlito’s Way
3.  Dressed to Kill
4.  Body Double
5.  Femme Fatale
6.  The Untouchables
7.  Phantom of the Paradise
8.  Mission: Impossible
9.  Greetings
10.  Carrie
11.  Casualties of War
12.  Obsession
13.  Scarface
14.  The Fury
15.  Hi, Mom
16.  Snake Eyes watched 1/23/10
17.  Redacted
18.  Sisters
19.  The Bonfire of the Vanities
20.  Mission to Mars
21.  Wise Guys
22.  Raising Cain
23.  The Black Dahlia
24.  The Wedding Party watched 1/30/10
25.  Murder a la Mod watched 1/23/10

Never seen:
Snake Eyes
Home Movies
Murder a la Mod
The Wedding Party
Get to Know Your Rabbit
Show Me a Strong Town and I’ll Show You a Strong Bank (short)
The Responsive Eye (documentary short)
Bridge That Gap (short)
Jennifer (short)
Woton’s Wake (short)
660124: The Story of an IBM Card (short)
Icarus (short)

Monday, January 11, 2010

Eric Rohmer

Eric Rohmer passed away today, and I miss him already.  I started making movies because of the French New Wave.  And I continue, to this day, to derive inspiration from the passion and intelligence of this group of filmmakers.

Each filmmaker had their own particular style.  Rohmer was the oldest and acted as the most responsible of all.  He had a very controlled system of working.  He kept his budgets in line with the size of his audiences.  And, as a result, he was able to make movies, so it seemed, whenever he wanted.

Never seen one of his films?  I'd probably start you with Summer (1986) or My Night at Maud's (1969).  Rohmer's films are dialogue-heavy, sophisticated, sensual (in a restrained kinda way), and powerfully observant about the way we act and the way we are.

The history of cinema has lost one of its truly great practitioners today. But he also lived until he was 89 and made films until he was 87. Monsieur Rohmer, really, we should celebrate.   The cinema has been lucky to have you.