French New Wave

“Is the cinema more important than life?”, François Truffaut.

By Fundación Televisa Collection and Archive

Actress Jeanne Moreau by Fotógrafo no identificadoFundación Televisa Collection and Archive

French New Wave
More than five decades ago, a group of young French filmmakers, forged by cinephilia and film criticism, revolutionized world cinema forever. His proposal broke from the industrial and thematic norms of the time and bet on a rabidly personal cinema, which at the same time disrupted the classic cinematographic language and the moral norms of its time. Filmmakers such as Jean-Luc Godard, Alain Resnais, Louis Malle, Francois Truffaut and Claude Chabrol, as well as actors and actresses such as Catherine Deneuve, Francoise Dorleac, Jean-Pierre Léaud and Jean-Paul Belmondo, among others, were protagonists of this key moment in the history of world cinema.

Anna Karina and Jean-Luc Godard by Fotógrafo no identificadoFundación Televisa Collection and Archive

Truffaut explained that the New Wave was “a collective word invented by the press to refer to fifty new names (...) that had emerged in two years within a profession in which only three or four were accepted per year.” Despite his categorical disdain for the phrase, it was so successful that it became synonymous with the cinematographic movement, which, without having an “official” existence, had a decisive influence on French and international cinema.

Filmmaker Agnès Varda by Fotógrafo no identificadoFundación Televisa Collection and Archive

“1958 can be seen as the launch of the French Nouvelle Vague. At the Locarno Festival, newcomer Claude Chabrol receives the award for best director, for his debut Le beau Serge (1958); and in Venice, Louis Malle wins the Special Jury Prize with Les amants (1958). In January, Ascenseur pour l'échafaud (1957), by Malle himself, premiered in Paris; (followed by a series of films:) in March, Le dos au mur (1957) by Édouard Molinaro; in September, Une vie (1957) by Alexandre Astruc; in November, Les mistons (1957) by François Truffaut, Le bel indifférent (1957) by Jacques Demy, Du côté de la côte (1958 ) by Agnès Varda, Le chant de Styrène (1958) by Alain Resnais and Blue jeans (1958) by Jacques Rozier”. Nelson Carro.

Louis Malle in the filming of “Atlantic City” (1980) by Fotógrafo no identificadoFundación Televisa Collection and Archive

Scene from "Les amants" (1958) by Fotógrafo no identificadoFundación Televisa Collection and Archive

Les amants (1958). “I marvel before films like Les amants because of the power cinema has to fight head-on for the very force of the facts and against the petty itch to reduce the norms of human coexistence to narrow formulas, good for everyone and for all cases. We must be against adultery.

Scene from "Les amants" (1958) by Fotógrafo no identificadoFundación Televisa Collection and Archive

But how can we be against the particular adultery that Malle portrays in Les amants? How to deny the protagonist of the film, above all, her right to breathe life to the full, out of that circle of moth-eaten characters who consider her an ornamental object and not a human being?” Emilio García Riera, Revista de la Universidad de Mexico, vol. XIII, no. 9, May 1959.

Maurice Ronet in “Le feu follet” (1963) by Fotógrafo no identificadoFundación Televisa Collection and Archive

Le feu follet (1963). “Louis Malle, who is thirty years old, same as his hero (Alain Leroy, played by Maurice Ronet), communicates his emotions and his anguish to us. Through Leroy, he tells us about himself in a sincere, secret, passionate and full film, with a modesty that does not exclude sensitivity: there is not a shot, a scene, which is not the result of an exact need. Making a movie about suicide, Malle performs an act of exorcism. Alain Leroy, by killing himself in the clinic's bedroom, leaves his life, in the same way that Malle leaves his youth behind with this film.” Tomás Pérez Turrent.

Jeanne Moreau in “Le feu follet” (1963) by Fotógrafo no identificadoFundación Televisa Collection and Archive

Le feu follet is a poet's long and beautiful meditation on life: his work on himself." Tomás Pérez Turrent, Revista Mexicana de Cultura, cultural supplement of the newspaper El Nacional, February 23, 1964.

Filmmaker Claude Chabrol by Pierre ZuccaFundación Televisa Collection and Archive

Scene from "Les cousins" (1959) by Fotógrafo no identificadoFundación Televisa Collection and Archive

Les cousins (1959).
“[...] Where the hell did Chabrol get his splendid actors? In front of the trio of rookies Brialy-Blain-Mayniel, I think that, in cinema, the actors are neither “born” nor “made”. It is rather the creator of art who made “them”. And this creator is not, as it is commonly believed, a producer of a collective work in which everyone collaborates “equally” and in which everyone is “equally” deserving of praise. No. When talking about Les cousins, one speaks, above all and almost exclusively, of its director Claude Chabrol”. Emilio García Riera, Revista de la Universidad de México, vol. XIV, no. 1, September 1959.

Scene from "Les cousins" (1959) by Fotógrafo no identificadoFundación Televisa Collection and Archive

“The public is often disconcerted because Les cousins reflects something like an upside-down world with respect to the world they were used to see in the cinema: Chabrol punishes the good guys and rewards the bad guys, rejecting once and for all for all that alleged value of immediate, mechanical persuasion that, according to all the guardians of morality, cinema has." Emilio García Riera, Revista de la Universidad de México, vol. XIV, no. 1, September 1959.

François Truffaut on the set of the movie “La peau douce" (1963) by Fotógrafo no identificadoFundación Televisa Collection and Archive

Scene from "La sirène du Mississipi" (1969) by Fotógrafo no identificadoFundación Televisa Collection and Archive

“François Truffaut was a few years ago the “enfant terrible” of French film criticism; today he is a well-known and controversial director, perhaps more praised than censored; his fame was quickly acquired when he received the award for best director at the Cannes festival for his film Les quatre cents coups.” Francisco Pina, La Cultura en México. Cultural supplement of the magazine Siempre!, May 6th, 1964.

Scene from "Les quatre cents coups" (1959) by Fotógrafo no identificadoFundación Televisa Collection and Archive

Les quatre cents coups (1959). It is known that Truffaut wrote the script Les quatre cents coups "based on autobiographical episodes; but this fact, if not accompanied by a strong talent and an acute sensitivity, would not be enough to explain by itself the miracle of this film about childhood… ” Francisco Pina, La Cultura en México. Cultural supplement of the magazine Siempre!, May 6th, 1964.

Scene from "Jules et Jim" (1961) by Fotógrafo no identificadoFundación Televisa Collection and Archive

Jules et Jim (1961) is a film that exercises the courtesy of being a masterpiece without looking like it. Its greatest virtue is made up of minor virtues: delicacy, modesty, taste for detail […] The adventure of light throughout the story, that passing from a clear lighting to gray and dark tones drives our mood, without realizing it, with a mastery more musical than plastic.” José de la Colina.

Alain Resnais and Sasha Vierney on the set of “Stavisky” (1974) by Fotógrafo no identificadoFundación Televisa Collection and Archive

Emmanuelle Riva in "Hiroshima mon amour" (1959) by Fotógrafo no identificadoFundación Televisa Collection and Archive

Hiroshima mon amour (1959) is a monologue said by two people about suffering and forgetting. That is an exact definition […] One day something may force us to open our eyes again and feel possessed, one more time, intensely by the pain that we have tried to forget. Only then does true oblivion begin.” Emilio García Riera.

Scene from "Hiroshima mon amour" (1959) by Fotógrafo no identificadoFundación Televisa Collection and Archive

Filmmaker Jean Luc Godard by Fotógrafo no identificadoFundación Televisa Collection and Archive

“What Godard showed us were new ways of using images to tell a story, new ways of filming, of mounting", Martin Scorsese.

Scene from "À bout de souffle" (1960) by Fotógrafo no identificadoFundación Televisa Collection and Archive

À bout de souffle (1960). “What time has respected and nostalgia makes enduring is the beautiful, naive, adorable and defiant Jean Seberg without a bra, in a fresh and light T-shirt, shouting the NY Herald Tribune on the Champs-Elysées. To Parvulesco declaring his desire to be immortal and then die. The whole film, its semi-documentary urban tone, its visual quotes, the love for Paris in evocative grays, blacks and whites, the photo of Coutard and the music of Martial Solal. Interestingly, Belmondo is the most forgettable thing for me.” Gabriel Ramírez.

Scene from "Pierrot le Fou" (1965) by Fotógrafo no identificadoFundación Televisa Collection and Archive

Pierrot le fou (1965) is first of all a film where the characters do not try to make us believe that they move in life, but rather in a film […] Not a film about adventure, although it had been defined so by Godard himself, but a film about characters who want to live an adventure film […] For Godard, cinema is asking what cinema is. And Pierrot le fou is that question… ”, José de la Colina.

Jacques Démy and Anouk Aimée in the filming of “Model shop” (1968) by Fotógrafo no identificadoFundación Televisa Collection and Archive

Catherine Deneuve in “L'événement le plus important depuis que l'homme a marché sur la Lune” (1973) by Fotógrafo no identificadoFundación Televisa Collection and Archive

“The New Wave left us set phrases, attitudes, fashions, music, faces and so many images. The New Wave took away the way we had of seeing the world, but it brought us a new one in return." Fernando Macotela.

Actress Jeanne Moreau by Fotógrafo no identificadoFundación Televisa Collection and Archive

Jeanne Moreau (1928) considered the best actress of the French New Wave, since her success in Jules et Jim (Truffaut, 1961). In this image, she appears with director Louis Malle at the press conference prior to the filming of Viva Maria! in Mexico on January 25th, 1965.

Actor Alain Delon by Fotógrafo no identificadoFundación Televisa Collection and Archive

Alain Delon (1935) began his film career in 1957 after having studied theater. He starred in films such as Rocco e i suoi fratelli (Visconti, 1960), L'eclisse (Antonioni, 1961) and Il gattopardo (Visconti, 1962), which made him one of the most successful and prominent actors in European cinema.

Actor Jean Paul Belmondo by Fotógrafo no identificadoFundación Televisa Collection and Archive

Jean Paul Belmondo (1933) studied music and finally decided on acting in 1957. He made his film debut with the films Les tricheurs (Carné, 1958) and À bout de souffle ( Godard, 1959) that made him a promising actor.

Actress Brigitte Bardot by Fotógrafo no identificadoFundación Televisa Collection and Archive

Brigitte Bardot (1934). Success is achieved with Et Dieu... créa la femme (1956) by Roger Vadim. His participation was highlighted in films such as Le mépris (1963) by Godard and Viva Maria! (1965) by Louis Malle. Her immense fame was due to the myth and paraphernalia surrounding her beauty that made her a sex symbol.

Making of the movie "Et Satan conduit le bal" (1962) by Fotógrafo no identificadoFundación Televisa Collection and Archive

Making of the movie "Et Satan conduit le bal" (1962) by Fotógrafo no identificadoFundación Televisa Collection and Archive

This revisiting of the French New Wave by means of images from the collection of the Fondo de División Fílmica de la Fundación Televisa is an opportunity to see once again those films that marked a generation of filmmakers and moviegoers, but also for young generations to know closely an aesthetic, critical and filmic movement that for more than 50 years is still alive and provocative.

Credits: Story

In 2008, as part of the commemoration of the 50 years of the French New Wave, the French Embassy, the Cineteca Nacional and Fundación Televisa collaborated on the exhibition 50 years of the French New Wave. This virtual exhibition is based on said exhibition.

Quotes from the catalog Nouvelle Vague: A Mexican Vision (2008).

Virtual exhibition: Cecilia Absalón Huízar.
Image digitization and editing: Omar Espinoza.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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