Thanks to IFC Daily’s David Hudson for tipping us off to a couple of top-notch articles this week marking the fiftieth anniversary of the French New Wave. That’s right, it was fifty years ago, in May to be precise, that François Truffaut’s The 400 Blows shook up the establishment at the Cannes Film Festival. It was also the year Alain Resnais’ Hiroshima mon amour was released, and that Jean-Luc Godard took to the streets to shoot Breathless. Sure, some have set the beginning of the movement a year or two earlier (even as far back as Agnès Varda’s La Pointe Courte, made in 1954), but what’s the harm in celebrating! Which is what BFI Southbank is doing with a special series, simply called Nouvelle Vague, the occasion for the pieces in the Guardian and Time Out London.
“No one in the year 2009 will make a better film than The 400 Blows, Hiroshima mon amour, or Jules and Jim. No one will make a more daring film than Pierrot le fou, Alphaville, or Weekend. No one will make a more adventurous film than Paris Belongs to Us or a more influential film than Breathless,” declares Joe Queenan in his retrospective piece for the Guardian. Well, maybe not, but some filmmakers are still giving it their all, including Mike Leigh, whom Trevor Johnston interviewed for the Time Out London tribute, in which the director recounts the major influence the New Wave had on his career. “Before I arrived down here, I’d never seen a subtitled film,” he says of coming to London in 1960. “With Godard’s Breathless in particular, it was the real, fundamental, anarchic, status quo–challenging, breathing-real-air aspect of it which resonated with me. It keyed into an aspiration I’d had for some time.” Leigh also discusses the New Wave’s influence on British cinema of the sixties, such as A Taste of Honey and If...., and his particular love for Cléo from 5 to 7 and Jules and Jim.