Academic journal article CineAction

The Second Wave: Collaboration and the Nouvelle Vague

Academic journal article CineAction

The Second Wave: Collaboration and the Nouvelle Vague

Article excerpt

2009 marks the 50th anniversary of the first flowering of the French new wave, and as such has already seen a host of screenings and features taking stock of the impact and lasting influence of this most radical filmmaking movement, this birth of modernist cinema.

In England, in particular, a two-month series of theatrical offerings (including a touring retrospective and several key re-releases) and a number of critical reflections in the journal Sight and Sound and certain broadsheet newspapers have made a point of doing more than simply revisiting the established films and filmmakers. They have ventured beyond the canonical and attempted to uncover and elucidate some of the nouvelle vague's peripheral directors (Alain Jessua, Jacques Doniol-Valcroze, Phillipe De Broca, etc) and a selection of its influences (Melville, Bresson, Bazin etc), whilst also taking stock of its innovations and, briefly, its iconographic stars. In addition, several longer tomes have also appeared. March 2009 saw the publication of a useful book, the second edition of The French New Wave: Critical Landmarks, which collects together a number of writings both by and about the nouvelle vague and its defining texts and theoretical foundations. in so doing, it offers a guide to the historicity of the new wave, the context in which it was born and the impact that is made. Likewise, a new book (by Emilie Bickerton), which traces the history of Cahiers du Cinema, similarly gets to grips with the political and theoretical context surrounding the emergence of Godard, Truffaut, Chabrol, Rohmer and Rivette.

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However, there is much more to elucidate on the subject of the French new wave beyond its foremost directors and their formative educations and influences: beyond, as it were, the first wave of talent. The discourse on its key actors and stars highlights the blind-spot to which I specifically referred above, an important area that has thus far been largely neglected in critical commentary: that of the multitude of collaborators who helped shape and define the movement both behind and before the camera (1). It is perhaps an after-effect of the centrality of the nouvelle vague directors to the politique des auteurs, to the inception of cinematic authorship and (at least in its initial conception) of individual agency, vision and expression in filmmaking, which has seen such a dearth of interrogative explorations into this subject. But it is most definitely a profitable subject for analysis. One need only glance cursorily over the filmographies and major personnel of the foremost new wave directors to note the recurrence of key names across a number of films for each. In point of fact, in the embryonic but fertile pre and early new wave years, the major directors themselves collaborated closely. Godard worked from scenarios written by both Rohmer and Truffaut; whilst Claude Chabrol (through his production company AJYM Films) often served as a producer for his colleagues. Furthermore, in subsequent years, during Godard's political, Maoist-driven rejection of mainstream cinema, he entered into specific collaborations that resulted in such close working relationships that these films all have dual-credits for Godard and his directorial partner: Jean-Pierre Gorin at first; and later Ann-Marie Mieville.

Many of the films of Jacques Rivette similarly reveal a filmmaker especially interested in building and shaping projects around the contributions not only of his co-writers but of his casts. In works like Celine et Julie vont en bateau (Celine and Julie Go Boating 1974, Le pont du Nord 1981 and Haut bas fragile (High Low Fragile 1995), he has allowed his cast complete freedom to write and shape their own material. Celine and Julie Go Boating, Rivette's biggest hit, developed from an idea by the director and star Juliet Berto. She then worked with fellow actress Dominique Labourier, and the pair conceived of their own narrative lines for their respective characters in the film, even to the extent of living together and sharing their dreams. …

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