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French New Wave

French New Wave

“Tidal wave” would have been a more appropriate name for this explosion of vibrant, innovative, and highly self-conscious films by young French directors in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The informal movement was spearheaded by a handful of critics from Cahiers du cinéma—Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, Eric Rohmer, Claude Chabrol, and Jacques Rivette—whose incisive writings were matched by their films: bold, modern takes on classical masters that reworked genres like noir and the musical, and experimented with techniques antiquated and discovered. While Godard’s Breathless and Truffaut’s The 400 Blows remain the twin groundbreaking events of the movement, films such as Alain Resnais’ Hiroshima mon amour and Agnès Varda’s Cléo from 5 to 7 were watersheds as well, finding excited audiences hungry for a new, energetic, political cinema opposed to the stuffy “cinema of quality,” as Truffaut put it, of the old guard. Though the movement quickly dissipated, filmmakers like Godard, Rivette, Varda, and Rohmer continue to pioneer today.