The French New Wave movement was heavily influenced by a variety of figures, events, and cultural changes that led to its creation. Responding to the lackluster film industry following WWII, critics and directors saw the New Wave aesthetic as an opportunity to revolutionize the world of film by challenging the mainstream film industry and its unquestionable influence.
France during World War II was a dark place for a film industry that had once experienced such successes. As a result of Nazi Germany’s occupation, the selection of films available in France was severely limited. With Hollywood films strictly banned, theatres during the war mostly exhibited German imports and only a handful ...view middle of the document...
Only a handful of these so-called international films were successful in Europe and the United States, while the more traditional productions often went ignored.
Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut, outspoken film critics and the editors of Cahiers du Cinéma, blasted the French film industry for being either cowardly or selling out to American cinema and its tired genres. They accused mainstream French films before the New Wave of epitomizing cinéma de papa, failing to innovate and placing too much focus on what was referred to as the French “tradition of quality.” This style of filmmaking often buried films in complex dialogue, narrative strategies, and plots. François Truffaut complained that these films relied too much on the role of the screenwriter, essentially diminishing the director’s role in the creative process of the film’s production.
The already failing French film industry soon took another hit following the introduction of television and suburbia to French life. With Parisians increasingly leaving urban areas for the suburbs, film attendance in theatres began a steady decline. Suburban populations began adopting television as their mass media of choice, and Hollywood in its never-ending quest to innovate, began importing color, widescreen format films to France in an attempt to counter the boom of television. This swift influx of US designed film technology further contributed to the decline of French film. France wasn’t alone during its film crisis, a similar situation was playing out in US occupied Japan following World War II. The introduction of NHK Television in 1953 significantly stunted the recovering Japanese film industry, forcing the focus of production on profit and a move to the Hollywood studio system of production. Although a small subset of directors embraced the move to art films rather than profit driven studio production, they never managed to gain the popularity of their French counterparts.
Cahiers du Cinéma and its editors managed to lay the groundwork for the French New Wave by identifying the perceived problems with an ailing French film scene. Transitioning from the world of critique to production, Godard, Truffaunt, and Alain Resnais started creating their own films with a unique sense of style, an alternative to that of classic French cinema or Hollywood—thus, the French New Wave was born.
This alternative aesthetic was seen by the group at Cahiers as the answer to crises plaguing the French film industry. Caught between censorship by the CNC and cinéma du papa, unwanted influence from screenwriters, and the “tradition of quality,” filmmakers were poised for change. Solving the cinéma du papa problem meant trying new and innovative things and...