The movement can be said to have started from a rebellion against bourgeois and mainstream cinema. The manifesto in 1948 (The Birth of a New Avant-Garde) of ‘Alexandra Austruc’ sparked ideas associated with the French New Wave.
A couple of years later four film enthusiasts, François Truffaut, Jacques Rivette, Jean-Luc Godard, Claude Chabrol started writing for the film journal ‘Cahier’s du Cinema’. They felt film had become unexciting and stale. They came up with a list of principles of auteur theory, called the “poliqute de auteurs”, which formed many of the key principles of French new wave, for example a focus on realism in regards to mine en scene. Truffaut is a key example of a French new wave director. He wanted to make a film that departed from what he referred to as ‘cinema du papa’ (granddads cinema.) His film ‘400 Blows’ about a troubled youth put this ideology into practice. He had a focus on lighting, shooting in black and white so he could play around with shadows. If you look at the image here (Img.1), you can see how the lighting casts the bars shadow across the young boys face. This is one of many examples of his creative use of lighting.
Another case study would be Breathless, by Jean-Luc Godard. This film is famous for
its ‘jump cuts’ never seen before in traditional films. Editing’s original purpose was remain continuity and pace. However, the discontinuous editing here is used to remind the audience they are watching a movie, not to be sucked into the film’s world.
So why is the French New Wave so important today? A key part of relevance today is that it still shows filmmakers; especially youths today you don’t need a high budget, just a unique creative idea. Producers are becoming willing to take chances on young directors, and letting audiences see an emergence of new talent. An example today is female directors like Oscar winning director Sofia Coppola, with ‘the Beguilled’, which I believe is due to how much the French New Wave pushed new and young directors to be confident enough to explore unique creative ideas.
This links into the auteur idea proposed in the early New Wave Days, which directors should have something that makes them stand out. This theory is still relevant today, as we can use this to identify key people in film history, and film critics with the prime vision of ‘The French New Wave’ created this theory. It also again encourages people to be unique with ideas.