French New Wave And Poetic Realism

1312 words - 5 pages

Since the very first actualities from the Lumière brothers and the fantastical shorts of Maries Georges Jean Méliès, cinema has continually fulfilled its fundamental purpose of artistic reflection on societal contexts throughout the evolution of film. Two French cinematic movements, Poetic Realism (1934-1940) and French New Wave (1950-1970), serve as historical bookends to World War II, one of the most traumatic events in world history. The Rules of the Game (Jean Renoir, 1939) is a classic example of French Poetic realism that depicts the disillusionment in society and government politics by a generation already traumatized by the monumental loss of human life during the First World War. Breathless (Jean Luc Godard, 1960), one of Jean Luc Godard’s most iconic films, portrays the next generation’s consequential feelings of loss and struggle. Both Rules of the Game and Breathless embody the spirit of their respective movements while exploring realism and redefining the purpose of cinema. However, while Rules of the Game contrasts the formative and realistic traditions through long takes and deep focus, Breathless breaks cinematic conventions through distanciation techniques and disjunctive editing to convey disillusionment and cinematic realism. Though these techniques and definitions of realism are seemingly oppositional, Godard and Renoir both hold to the same cinematic purpose of communicating their feelings of disillusionment towards society with the audience.
The Rules of the Game embodies the isolation, disillusionment, bitterness, and nostalgia portrayed during the Poetic Realism or French Impressionist cinematic movement (1934-1940) by contrasting the realistic and formative traditions. The Rules of the Game follows a narrative characteristic of poetic realist films, portraying characters on the fringes of society that lead disappointing lives and pursue one last opportunity to achieve an idealistic love, such as André Jurieux’s (Roland Toutain) desperate attempt to win Christine de la Cheyniest played by Nora Gregor. Renoir exemplifies what Andre Bazin refers to as a director with faith in reality. In his essay “Evolution of the Language of Cinema”, Bazin contrasts the heavy editing and choppy style of the Soviet montage tradition with Renoir who “uncovered the secret of a film form that would permit everything to be said without chopping the world up into little fragments, that would reveal the hidden meaning in people and things without disturbing the unity natural to them” (38). Realism, in this sense, means showing long continuous shots without manipulation through editing and cross cutting--- to tell a story in the same form as if it were unfolding in the real world. Renoir plays with the idea of the formative and imaginary “farce” of the societal world by staging these formative traditions within the editing conventions of realism. This integration of a lyrical and poetic story within the poignant critique of a dark reality can be...

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