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A guide to the directors of the French New Wave

Hello everyone and welcome to my first official post on my blog! I am aware it took me a little while to start –I have been busy and my perfectionism doesn’t help– but I hope the wait was worth it and I’m excited about my plans for future posts on here. Today I’m posting a guide for the people who would like to get into the work of the directors who started during the French New Wave, one of my favorite periods in cinema history.

The French New Wave, also known as La Nouvelle Vague, was an art movement which emerged in the late 1950s in France. La Nouvelle Vague was a movement composed of directors who broke all the rules traditional cinema (especially Hollywood) had imposed in film making over the decades, consequently permanently changing cinema.

I could not include all of the directors who were part of the New Wave era, for obvious reasons, so instead I picked six of them. My picks include Agnès Varda, Éric Rohmer, François Truffaut, Jacques Demy, Jacques Rivette and Jean-Luc Godard.

My list includes five films from each director, making it a total of 30 movies I think you should start with to dive into their work. The directors appear in alphabetical order and the films in chronological order.

As stated before, this is not a guide to the films made during the New Wave but the work of the directors who were part of it. Without further ado, here is the list:

Agnès Varda (1928-2019)

1- La Pointe Courte (1955)Plot: A look at the lives of a fisherman and a young couple in a small fishing village of La Pointe Courte. The young couple tries hard to save their failing marriage.

2- Cléo from 5 to 7/ Cléo de 5 à 7 (1962)Plot: Cléo, an arrogant pop star, is a nervous wreck as she awaits the results of a biopsy teat. With almost two hours to kill before the results are revealed, she wanders around and bumps into a soldier.

3- Le Bonheur (1965)Plot: François, a carpenter by profession, leads a happy and peaceful life with his wife and two children. Soon, things get complicated after he falls in love with Emilie, a clerk from the post office.

4- One Sings, the Other Doesn’t/ L’une chante, l’autre pas (1977)Plot: Two Frenchwomen have a close friendship through years of personal growth and social change.

5- Vagabond/ Sans toit ni loi (1985)Plot: In the dead of winter, a young woman’s body is found in a ditch. With the help of interviews and flashbacks, the intriguing life story of the young woman, Mona, is revealed.

Éric Rohmer (1920-2010)

1- La Collectionneuse (1967)Plot: A young man tells himself high ideals are what kept him from sleeping with a temptress staying at the same St. Tropez boarding house.

2- My Night at Maud’s/ Ma nuit chez Maud (1969)Plot: The rigid principles of a devout Catholic man are challenged during a one-night stay with Maud, a divorced woman with an outsize personality.

3- Chloe in the Afternoon/ L’amour l’après-midi (1972)Plot: Though he has an adoring wife, a bourgeois man is still tempted to pursue other women.

4- The Green Ray/ Le Rayon Vert (1986)Plot: It’s July, and Delphine has nowhere to go for the summer. She feels very bored and “empty”, but this won’t last; one day she accidently meets someone who seems to be totally made for her…

5- A Summer’s Tale/ Conte d’été (1996)Plot: The story revolves around Gaspard who meets three women in his life. But his mind is left in the state of confusion when all three of them fall for him.

François Truffaut (1932-1984)

1- The 400 Blows/ Les Quatre Cents Coups (1959)Plot: This is the story of a 13-year-old whose adventures were based on the director, François Truffaut’s own adolescence, who finds comfort at the cinema.

2- Jules and Jim/ Jules et Jim (1962)Plot: Drama explores the 30-year friendship between Austrian biologist Jules and Parisian writer Jim and the love triangle formed when the alluring Catherine makes the duo a trio.

3- Stolen Kisses/ Baisers volés (1968)Plot: After being discharged from the army, Antoine Doinel centers a screwball comedy where he applies for different jobs and tries to make sense of his relationships with women.

4- Day for Night/ La Nuit américaine (1973)Plot: A dedicated film director struggles very hard to finish his movie dealing with uncounted numbers of crises, within the personal and professional interest, among the cast and crew.

5- The Last Metro/ Le Dernier Métro (1980)Plot: Set during the Nazi occupation, an actress struggles to keep her husband, a theatre owner hidden from the Nazi’s.

Jacques Demy (1931-1990)

1- Lola (1961)Plot: Lola, a cabaret dancer, is persued by her childhood friend Roland. However, she pays no heed to his affections as she wants to be with Michel, the man who abandoned her and their son.

2- Bay of Angels/ La baie des anges (1963)Plot: Jean is a clerk in a bank. His colleague Caron is a gambler and gives him the virus. In the casinos, Jean meets Jackie. Their love affair will follow their luck at the roulette.

3- The Umbrellas of Cherbourg/ Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (1964)Plot: Genevieve, who is pregnant from Guy, a mere motor mechanic, is pressurized by her mother to marry the wealthy Roland, who is ready to accept and raise her child. Will Genevieve accept the proposal?

4- The Young Girls of Rochefort/ Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (1967)Plot: Twin sisters Delphine and Solange realise their dream of working for the stage when they are discovered by a couple associated with a carnival and find love in the process.

5- Donkey Skin/ Peau d’âne (1970)Plot: A fairy godmother helps a princess disguise herself so she won’t have to marry a man she doesn’t love.

Jacques Rivette (1928-2016)

1- The Nun/ La Religieuse (1966)Plot: Suzanne is forced against her will to take vows as a nun and three mothers superior treat her in radically different ways. Suzanne’s virtue brings disaster to everyone in this faithful adaptation of a bitter attack on religious abuses.

2- Out 1 (1971)Plot: Following the May 1968 civil unrest in France, a deaf-mute and a con artist simultaneously stumble upon the remnants of a secret society.

3- Céline and Julie Go Boating/ Céline et Jule vont en bateau (1974)Plot: A mysteriously linked pair of young women find their daily lives preempted by a strange boudoir melodrama that plays itself out in a hallucinatory parallel reality.

4- Duelle (1976)Plot: The Queen of the Sun and the Queen of the Night battle it out for a magical diamond, and manipulate an innocent mortal in order to achieve their task.

5- The Beautiful Troublemaker/ La Belle Noiseuse (1991)Plot: The former famous painter Frenhofer revisits an abandoned project using the girlfriend of a young visiting artist. Questions about truth, life, and artistic limits are explored.

Jean-Luc Godard (1930-)

1- Breathless/ À bout de souffle (1960)Plot: A small-time thief steals a car and impulsively murders a motorcycle policeman. Wanted by the authorities, he reunites with a hip American journalism student and attempts to persuade her to run away with him to Italy.

2- A Woman is a Woman/ Une Femme est Une Femme (1961)Plot: Anna, a stripper by trade, hears her biological clock is ticking away. When her boyfriend Emile, who does not want kids, suggests she seeks the help of his friend to get pregnant, their lives alter.

3- My Life to Live/ Vivre sa Vie (1962)Plot: Twelve episodic tales in the life of a Parisian woman and her slow descent into prostitution.

4- Contempt/ Le Mépris (1963)Plot: Screenwriter Paul Javal’s marriage to Camille disintegrates during movie production as she spends time with the producer. Layered conflicts between art and business ensue.

5- Pierrot le Fou (1965)Plot: Ferdinand, an unhappily married, unemployed man, leaves his wife and children and runs away with his ex-lover Marianne, a weapons smuggler, in search of adventure.


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