Wednesday, May 19, 2004

French New Wave Cinema Day

Today at Is This A Good Idea Towers (towers/suburban cul de sac house) we've declared a celebration of French New Wave Cinema. I'm not an expert, by any stretch of the imagination, but having watched Linklatter's Before Sunrise, a
beautifully shot love story set in Vienna, I thought I'd have a look at some of the influences on the American film makers who make my favourite films. I put this whim into practice by watching Truffaut's Les Quatre Cents Coups (The 400 blows) and then Godard's Bande A Part (The Outsiders) and being thoroughly blown away by both of them.

There's a really good article on the French New Wave here for anyone interested in the history or significance of the movement, so I'm skipping the background details, as I'd just be cutting and pasting from it. What I will say is that there isn't a film maker who's films I loved who wasn't influenced by the movement.

The two films are incredibly different - 400 blows is an emotional, subtle and, in many ways, frightening portrayal of a young boy being let down in every conceivable way by his parents who have no idea how to handle him. Truffaut took up the story of the boy's later life in several pictures, none of which I've seen - all of which I'm going to try and track down! The performance by Jean-Pierre Leaud is by a very wide margin the finest performance I've ever seen by a young actor. And the end! Oh the end...not going to say anything about it as if you've never seen it you really should, but, boy, that's one heck of a tracking shot...

As for Bande a Part, really the plot matters not a jot. But the dance sequence and the running through the Louvre sequence are just wonderful. In the sense that they left me full of wonder. Tarantino owes more than a tad to it, as I'm sure he'd be the first to admit/discuss at length with film writers and interviewers...

There is a kind of theme running through the picture, seperated out from the plot or central characters and told visually and symbolically about the relationship between modern and traditional art and culture - there is a moment early on, where, in some kind of English adult education class, the teacher writes on the board "Moderne=Classique", quoting from TS Elliot. And later, the running through the Louvre sequence sort of echoes this - the act, running through an art gallery, to kill time and break an American tourist's record is totally "Moderne" - it's irreverent in the extreme, but the effect on screen of this sight, this glimpse of freedom and abandon and completely substanceless behaviour which manages to transcend the mundane for a moment or two is completely and utterly "classique".

Anyway...check 'em out!