Thursday, August 18, 2011

Preview: Leaders of the New Wave, Godard & Truffaut

Alas, the run of World Cinema Classics this summer come to an end this weekend, but the screenings conclude with a showcase of cinema royalty. During the 1960s the French New Wave began to reinvent film's attitudes and structures. Directors like Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, Claude Chabrol, Jacques Demy and Éric Rohmer were major filmmakers in this cinematic revolution, and their impact on cinema was no less distinctive than the Beatles were on the world of music. Of these players, Godard and Truffaut are usually considered the leaders of the New Wave, and in effect were the Lennon and McCartney of French film.

François Truffaut made a distinct splash with his early films The 400 Blows and Jules and Jim, each reinforcing a joy of life through film. But after setting the world on fire with those movies, Truffaut took a darker turn away from the joie de vivre with The Soft Skin. In this film, a well-to-do middle aged lecturer has an established life complete with solid career and family. He meets a young woman after one of his speeches and begins an affair. In a combination of shame and unbridled passion, his emotions overtake his better judgment and begins making choices that have dire consequences.

When Jean-Luc Godard made Breathless in 1960, he planted the flag of French New Wave cinema that threw old cinematic conventions right out the door. His filmography is vast and acclaimed. Over the decades his works have aged like a fine French wine, and he is widely accepted as one of the finest directors in the world.

Vivre se Vie ("My Life to Live") was released in 1962, just as Godard was reaching his stride as a filmmaker. It is a film divided into 12 "chapters" that chronicle a young woman's descent from housewife into prostitution. Godard uses techniques of cinéma vérité to document her story, but infuses more striking cinematography to give the movie a distinct look and emotion. Within her story, the director also comments on philosophy, consumerism, and the pop culture of the period. Although not as well-known as his other work, it nevertheless remains a quintessential example of Godard.

These leaders of the New Wave has provided riches that are still appreciated to this day. Just as The Beatles were influenced by the likes of Carl Perkins, Buddy Holly, Little Richard and Elvis Presley, these French directors were strongly inspired both by Americana and the Hollywood. Godard, Truffaut and their French contemporaries were inspired by American film makers such as Nicholas Ray, Orson Welles, John Ford and even Britain's Alfred Hitchcock. Ironically, their appreciation for the culture of the past helped fuel the evolution of cinema's future. And so from their roots, the French New Wave has paved the road to modern movie making. Like a game of tennis, the creativity has bounced from our court to theirs to ours once again. Generations to come will continue to be inspired, and their fresh ideas will no doubt spark many artists to come. Such is life, such is art. C'est le vie.

Showtimes for the films:

The Soft Skin
Saturday, Aug 18th
4:30 8:45
Sunday, Aug 19th

Vivre sa Vie
Saturday, Aug 18th
Sunday, Aug 19th
2:00 6:20

Final Notes about the screening:

$2 discount for Austin Film Society members at the box office for all "World Cinema Classics" films!

Double Features:
"When two movies are grouped together under the same thematic heading, one ticket is good for both features when viewed back-to-back on the same day." (cha-ching!)

"Hassle-free downtown parking available for $6 at the One American Center for all summer films! Since you’re also supporting the theatre when you buy parking, they're giving you a free small soda each time you park there for a film. Buy online with your film tix and print out your confirmation e-mail or buy directly from the garage attendant (cash only). Attendant will have your soda ticket as well."

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