The French New Wave, or La Nouvelle Vague in French, is a cinematic movement that emerged in the late 1950s in the French capital of Paris. The idea behind the movement was to give directors more freedom to express themselves in their films, encouraging them to forego conventional storytelling in favour of more existential, improvised narratives. The French New Wave revolutionised French cinema and the entire film industry, laying the groundwork for today’s auteur-driven films.
For its part, the French New Wave was a reaction against the dominant “Old Hollywood” film style of the time, which prized straightforward stories and was dominated by large studios with editorial sway. This article will describe what the French New Wave is and who were the notable directors of this movement, and their famous films.
At a Glance
The History of French New Wave
The core years of the French New Wave were 1958–1964; however, individual titles continued to contribute to the genre until about 1973. Tough times inspired this creative expression. After WWII, France was in dire straits economically and reverted to pre-war customs out of desperation. However, they quickly went bankrupt as new artists emerged. Those elegant French films were simply out of their price range. Because of this, they had to develop a novel strategy for filming and editing in a limited time frame and with limited equipment.
The term auteur theory was coined to describe a school of thought in filmmaking that holds that a film’s unique artistic fingerprint can be traced back to its director. The filmmakers and writers of the French New Wave looked up to the likes of Alfred Hitchcock as pioneers of the auteur style.
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