From The Cine-Files, Spring 2012, issue 2. — J.R.
What for you makes the French New Wave such an exciting topic to study? Or… Is the French New Wave still an exciting topic to study? What can moviegoers of the 21st century take away from French New Wave films?
For me, the greatness of the French New Wave stemmed directly from the fact that it was the first comprehensive film movement spearheaded by film critics who were well versed in film history — an education that came about specifically through the efforts of Henri Langlois, the cofounder and director of the Cinémathèque Française in Paris, a very inspired and creative film programmer. And this was a critical appreciation that became closely tied to their filmmaking, not so much as a series of hommages as a kind of critical understanding. I’m not talking about tips of the hat to favorite movies or moments in movies, which is what we usually get in Woody Allen, Peter Bogdanovich, Francis Coppola, Brian De Palma, Martin Scorsese, and Quentin Tarantino; I’m talking about critical insights that change our sense of the movies.
Not all of the French New Wave filmmakers were critics or writers—the most notable exceptions that come to mind are Jacques Demy, Alain Resnais, Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, and Agnès Varda (and perhaps, reluctantly, one could add Louis Malle to this list)—but I think it would be safe to say that all of them had a critical grasp of film history thanks to the programs of Langlois, and this critical grasp of film history is plainly visible (and audible) in their films.… Read more »