Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Truffaut, Godard ride la Vague

It’s here. Emmanuel Laurent’s Two in the Wave, playing this weekend at the Detroit Film Theatre. This doc examines the early relationship between the most famous of France’s New Wave (la Nouvelle Vague) auteurs – Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard, and their iconoclastic first films, Truffaut’s The 400 Blows (1959) and Godard’s Breathless (1960), the 50th anniversary of which in a restored version overseen by original cinematographer Raoul Coutard and will be shown at the DFT July 23 – Aug. 1.....(The first of la Nouvelle Vague’s films is considered to be Le Beau Serge (1958) by Claude Chabrol, my favourite director – yay!).....Generally, la Nouvelle Vague films broke with the staid classical narrative tradition of high-minded French cinema, using a variety of techniques like jump cuts, improvised dialogue and long tracking shots. The films were often shot on low budgets and with themes that spoke of (personal) politics or the absurdity of life, paying homage to that other great French movement, existentialism.....Truffaut and Godard were writers for the famed Cahiers du Cinema film journal and applied the auteur theory (director as author) to their movies. Two in the Wave has rare footage from those early and seminal years.....The DFT suggests Breathless may be the “coolest” movie ever made. I'm going to disagree, as blasphemous as that sounds. The film may be revolutionary and credit should be paid to how it broke new cinematic territory. But it seems amateurishly choppy and the acting stilted. Even the glamorous Jean Seberg's smile can't change that. I’m inclined to agree with the filmgoer in Two in the Wave’s trailer who calls it “gratuitous dirt”.....I'm generally not a big fan of Godard. But I love Truffaut who was a true filmmaker if one measures a director’s work by coherence, rhythm, and charm or poignancy of subject matter.....That aside, Truffaut and Godard’s story is one for the ages. Allez au DFT!

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