New wave and its environment
This selection of valuable French films, which includes some real master pieces made from the late 1950s until the early 1970s, offers an unusual look into this extremely important period of French cinema and ranges from films by the predecessors and pioneers of the New Wave to the representatives of the period when it started to fade away and when different authors began distancing themselves from their collective starting points and built more and more distant but equally interesting author worlds. It is precisely authorship or, as the New Wave representatives called it, “the auteur policy“ that was the key determinant of this revolution of sorts in French cinema, which was promoted in the 1950s in the ever more influential film magazine Cahiers du cinéma (editor André Bazin, 1918 - 1958, one of the founders of modern theoretic analysis of film) by young film critics such as François Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard or Claude Chabrol. They were in fact seeking uniqueness of film language in comparison to the illustrative quality of adaptations of famous works, or the cheap inventiveness of directing styles that prevailed in commercial films of that time. At the beginning of the next decade they became the pioneers of probably the last great movement in the history of world film - the New Wave. They became directors who effectively demonstrated their thoughts about how to, through original stylistic techniques, ensure films speak their own language. In our program this is most evident in films such as Godard’s Pierrot Goes Wild and Truffaut’s The Soft Skin, while Claire's Knee by the director Éric Rohmer (who inherited Bazin’s position as the editor of Cahiers from 1957 - 1963) shows its connectedness to the new wave in looking for a film language with the use of very authentic and minimalist as well as nuanced and functional procedures.
Jean-Pierre Melville (Army in the Shadows) is an author who was put on the map and regarded by the representatives of the New wave as their predecessor primarily because of the adoration they all felt towards the great American authors of genre films and their unique film language, and also because he tried (just like the New wave representatives somewhat later) to transfer it to French cinema. Because of Louis Malle’s original approach to genre film and a series of other similarities with the New Wave, he could also be regarded as one of the most important representatives of this film movement even though he never officially joined it. Since his film Ascenseur pour l'échafaud appeared in 1957 he could also be regarded as its predecessor. Alain Resnais, with his debut Hiroshima, My Love, shares the same characteristic; in its film language and experimentation it is similar to basic tendencies of the New Wave but its stylization and intellectualism is quite different from it. Alain Robbe-Grillet is one of the representatives of the New Novel who a decade before the emergence of the New Wave played a similarly revolutionary role in literature. He worked on film as screenwriter for Resnais’ Last Year in Marienbad and later began directing himself and emphasized elements of intellectualism and alienation.
Under the influence of programmatic texts of the representatives of the New wave, film critics often present this tendency as the dominant in that time. The generalization drawn from this, that only films of the New wave present the author cinema in comparison to uninventive adaptation of literary works and commercial films, is doubtful not just due to the fact that directors who did not belong to this movement also made important and intimately expressive films but also because at the same time those actors who established themselves much before the New wave are also very active and fruitful. These include Robert Bresson and Luis Bunuel, whose films are also part of this program.
From that perspective, it becomes obvious that the 1960s in film and other arts, as well as society as a whole, were very turbulent and that these tendencies towards the revolutionizing styles as well as relationships within society were frequent and that the greatest importance of the New wave lies in how it managed to formulate these tendencies most clearly, thus finding itself at the center of French cinema’s turmoils and making an extraordinary impact on world cinema. This program offers many arguments for such a standpoint about this period in film history and the value of selected films enables us to enjoy each and every one of them separately. (Tomislav Kurelec)